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A Safe Ride to School Begins
Before the School Bus Engine Starts

SSD’s first bus leaves the Central Garage each morning at 5:05 a.m., but preparations for the day started hours before that.

A student’s safe ride to school begins with a pre-trip inspection of each bus. The 53-item inspection includes checking everything from the exterior lights to the wheelchair lift. After the inspection is completed, a brake test is performed before buses are cleared to leave the lot.

“There’s a lot more to it than just jumping on the bus and going,” said Ken Mulder, SSD director of transportation. “They’re making sure all of the equipment is working, that the equipment is secure, and that the bus is operating safely before a student steps on the bus,” he said.  

This pre-trip inspection ensures that emergency items, such as the accident pack, lights and emergency exits are all in proper working order. The inspection covers typical vehicle features like tires and lights, but also bus-specific items such as the safety lights, stop signs and crossing arm.

And for the SSD fleet, this also means inspecting all of the specialized student safety equipment that is onboard.

“We make sure all of the seat belts are operational and that all of the equipment required by students’ IEPs (individualized education programs), such as safety vests and wheelchair securement stations, are all set and proper,” Mulder said.

Even after students have been transported to school and a route is complete, the work is not finished. Upon return to the garage, buses undergo an 18-item post-trip inspection.

During the post-trip inspection, tires, lights and the exterior body of the bus are checked to ensure nothing was damaged during the run. Even more importantly, each driver also completes a check to ensure that no children or articles were left on the bus. Drivers conduct this same check after unloading students at each school in the morning and at the last stop of each run in the afternoon.

“Drivers check in and around the seats and must go to the back of the bus and hit a button,” Mulder said. “We also use a placard system to indicate that they’ve completed this step. And if for some reason the button is not pressed at the back of the bus, an alarm sounds to notify garage personnel that this important inspection was not done.”

This intensive inspection process is one of the reasons that SSD’s transportation department earned the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Exemplary School Bus Maintenance award last year.

“The SSD transportation department is committed to the idea that if a bus isn’t safe, it doesn’t leave the lot,” Mulder said. “We hope that families and students rest easy knowing that SSD staff members work hard every day to ensure the ride to and from school will be a safe one.”

Published October 2018

bus safety inspection


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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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