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Loss Control Insights for Schools

5 School Bus Winter Driving Safety Tips

snow on hood of school buses

With winter weather fast approaching, now is the time to get your school buses and drivers ready. Check out these tips to help keep your staff, students and the public safe this winter.

Plan Early
Think about what procedures need to be in place to ensure students can get to and from school safely in the winter. This may include:

  • Establishing alternate routes/snow routes and earlier start times for drivers
  • Creating policies and procedures for late starts/cancellations and disabled vehicles
  • Severe weather communication protocols for bus drivers, students, staff and parents/guardians. A computer-based calling system can notify parents by phone or e-mail that a bus is running slow on their child’s route.

Train Your Drivers
Ensure all drivers are provided specialized winter driving training. This training should include the importance of reducing speed, increasing following distances (five or six seconds instead of four), allowing for longer stopping distances, and braking, steering, and accelerating slowly.

Prepare Buses for Winter Conditions
All buses should be equipped for winter weather prior to the start of the season.

  • Make sure all tires have sufficient tread or switch to winter snow tires
  • Test all batteries
  • Install new windshield wipers
  • Ensure all lights are functional
  • Add brake line antifreeze
  • Use a rain repellent on outside glass surfaces to reduce snow and ice adhesion and an anti-fog product on interior glass and mirrors
  • Keep some kitty litter or oil absorbent on board to provide emergency traction

You may want to consider some winter upgrades to your fleet such as heated mirrors and wiper blades, heating strips installed opposite the wiper’s parked position, automatic tire chains or automatic sand/gravel dispensers.

Winter Pre-Trip Inspections
Pre-trip inspections are always important, but are even more so during the winter months. Complete the following tasks during all pre-trip inspections:

  • Clean snow and ice buildup from windows, mirrors, lights and stop arms
  • Check the wiper blades and washer fluid levels
  • Check the heater and defroster units to make sure they are working properly
  • Make sure tires are properly inflated
  • Keep fuel level as close to full as possible
  • Check for road and weather conditions

If any defects are noted they should be addressed before the driver begins the route.

Prevent a Slip
It’s easy to slip and injure yourself when entering or exiting the bus. To help prevent injuries, keep the bus clear of snow and ice, especially the steps. Consider installing step tread heaters on your buses, which prevent snow and ice buildup, or keep a spray bottle with brine handy for spot treatment. Wear shoes or boots with a high traction outsole and use three points of contact when entering or exiting the bus.