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Bus drivers prepare for back to school

SANDY, Utah — While teachers are preparing their classrooms and parents are buying back-to-school clothes, bus drivers are training and preparing the buses for all those students.

Drivers in training go through hours of classroom instruction before they even get behind the wheel, including a course on defensive driving.

Bus drivers gear up for back-to-school

Lonny Wilkens behind the wheel of a Canyons School District bus

“We teach them, what do you see down the road, a block, block and a half? What do you see that could potentially be a hazard and a risk to you?” said Lonny Wilkens, a trainer in the Canyons School District.

They also learn First Aid, emergency procedures, railroad crossings, unloading and loading, behavior management and more.

Once they get behind the wheel, Wilkens shows drivers every single button, switch and function. Before each trip, drivers go through inspections, like the four steps of the brake test. They do a post-trip check, too. And each day could include several trips for these drivers.

176 buses will bus roughly 10,000 students just within the Canyons School District. And each bus has a “Child Left Behind” Alarm, which forces the driver to walk all the way to the back, with the idea they should be checking the seats as they go.

When they are ready to take the wheel, assistant trainer Patsy Richins helps guide drivers through the course in the large parking lot of Union Middle School. As she backs up the bus neatly in between two white lines, she explains the straight-line backing, and how to keep the bus centered.

She wants parents to teach their kids to stay seated on the bus while it is in motion.

“They don’t realize what a big safety factor this is,” said Richins. “That is the most important part of this. We need to keep our eyes on the road.”

While all of this goes on outside, inside the transportation offices, a full staff makes sure they have all the routes in order for all those drivers and students, from special education to kindergarten up to high school.

Canyons Regular Ed Route Coordinator Jeff Wren says they’ve made it easy for parents to check bus routes and pickup and dropoff times online. He hopes everyone checks those before school starts, to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible on the exciting but busy first day of school.