Colleton’s buses: Headed in the right direction | News | The Press and Standard

by | September 28, 2017 5:00 pm

Last Updated: September 27, 2017 at 10:57 am

Colleton County School District Transportation Director Gary Bradley has his first start of the school year under his belt.
He’s pleased with the results.
“It has been a very good startup,” Bradley said. In conversations with School Superintendent Dr. Franklin Foster and other district administrators, he has been told “ it was a better start up than we have had in the last five years here in Colleton County.”
Yes, Colleton County School District had to start the school year running some double routes because it does not a full compliment of bus drivers on staff as yet.
But having to double up some routes has not produced the problems the district has seen in the past.
“The key to double routes is to have consistent double routes every day so the school and the parents know when to expect students home in the afternoons and when they will be picked up in the morning,” Bradley said.
“It has been working well — the phone has not been ringing off the hook,” Bradley said. “We have consistency. It is working as well as it can be with the situation that we are in.”
He is also pleased with the first month of school bus transportation for another reason: “Since the start of school, zero accidents and zero injuries. That’s outstanding.”
The first month of the school year has the highest potential for accidents. The bus drivers are becoming acclimated to their routes and motorists are getting accustomed to school buses becoming part of the mix of traffic again.
“We have had community awareness, that is a big deal,” Bradley said.
When Bradley joined the school district as transportation director at the end of the last school year, the district had 21 bus driver posts unfilled.
That number is down to 16 now and Bradley said that number is about to drop lower.
Last week, the state conducted a 20-hour class for 13 prospective bus drivers at Colleton County Middle School.
Three of those attending the class already have their commercial driver’s licenses.
Those drivers will spend five hours behind the wheel and take a physical performance test. “Then we put them out with a driver on the route they will be driving,” Bradley said.
The next step for the other prospective bus drivers completing the state class will be taking the four different tests necessary to obtain their commercial driver’s license.
Successfully completing those tests, Bradley said, can take 30 days “if the applicant is persistent about getting it done.”
“We are not where we want it to be, but we are trending in the right direction,” Bradley said. “We are not going to put just anybody behind the wheel — it is going to be a quality applicant, who follows through with all the training and guidelines and can be held accountable to do their job properly.”
As part of the work on this year’s fiscal budget, the members of the school board approved an increase in bus driver pay to try and address the continuing problem of not attracting and retaining, bus drivers.
Bradley said that the increase wage was a factor attracting bus drivers, “but I don’t know if it is the main factor. I think it is a combination of things.”
One of those things, he suggested, is a change in the work environment.
He said, “Word of mouth from our drivers is spreading because we have captured a couple (of bus drivers) back from Dorchester County.
“They are from Walterboro. They prefer to be here, but they just didn’t like what was going on earlier and those things are changing,” Bradley said.
Bradley explained that it’s changing because the management team for the transportation department has been bolstered by the hiring of Kerry Mayo as safety supervisor and Karim Johnson as routing supervisor.
Bradley said that, like him, “they are new to Colleton County but not new to transportation.” Bradley spent years heading the Beaufort County School District transportation system before taking the Colleton County post.
Bringing Mayo and Johnson on board means “when drivers have concerns or questions, they have someone qualified to give them quality answers and follow up on concerns,” Bradley said. “We are executing the plan; we are doing what we need to do, efficiently and safely, each day.”
With a full team with good knowledge and good skills, Bradley said, “I feel confident we are going to be successful through time as we build the team here.”

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