October 7, 2013

Bus drivers undergo extensive training

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer


The big, yellow buses that transport thousands of children to and from school each day are not the easiest vehicles to drive.

In fact, the narrow winding roads of the county present challenges to even the most experienced drivers.

But those wishing to transport the county’s most precious resource — students — undergo extensive training to prepare themselves for driving a school bus.

Claude Maggard, transportation director for the Laurel County School System, is more than familiar with the roads in the county. He is also aware bus drivers must maneuver those buses in tight turn-arounds and narrow spaces, with the ultimate goal of picking up and delivering the county’s students safely to their destinations.

This is why bus drivers with the Laurel County School System undergo training and background checks.

Periodic advertisements for school bus drivers outline the qualifications for those interested in transporting school children.

“Anyone who applies has to have a criminal background check and have a clean driving record for five (consecutive) years,” Maggard said. “They also have to have a drug test, have training, get their CDL’s (Commercial Driver’s License) and do on-road driving.”

Potential drivers tackle some narrow and curvy roads in rural areas of the county. Many of those roads have sharp intersections where visibility is sometimes extremely limited. Some of those involve blind curves and blind hills where approaching vehicles cannot always easily been seen. However, bus drivers must custom themselves to these situations, in addition to watching the children aboard the bus and keeping order while also watching the roadway and remembering the successive stops along the way.

“(In training,) we don’t always cover every road in the county, but we have certain routes we use so the drivers can get the feel of the roads they will be driving,” Maggard continued. “We have certain sections of the county that we have them practice on before they drive alone.”

Like any other school employee, bus drivers are subject to random drug testing during their employment and any violations can result in immediate termination.