By Claudette Riley
The Tennessean (Nashville)
Future Tennessee school buses may come with an alarm that
requires drivers to immediately walk to the back of the bus
every time they turn off the engine.
If they don't walk to the back wall to push a button within
one minute, an alarm will go off.
It's an effort to reduce the number of small or sleeping
children left on buses every year during the heat of the day
The child reminder alarm, which costs $75, is one of the
safety upgrades the Tennessee Association for Pupil Transportation
wants to see required on all new school buses.
''It's terrible that we have to do that, but frankly (drivers)
don't walk to the back of the bus every time,'' said Larry
Riggsbee, spokesman for the association and transportation
supervisor for Sumner County.
The changes are based on national bus safety guidelines
published in 2000. Other proposals include requiring a crossing
arm on all new buses – a large metal arm that extends
from the front bumper whenever a child exits the bus –
and better brakes and allowing districts to purchase conventional
72-passenger buses – which exceeds the current limit
of 66-passenger buses.
About 9,000 school buses are on Tennessee roadways every
school day, and about 10% of the fleet is replaced each year.
Only the new buses would have to comply with the changes.
''We're talking about new bus specifications,'' Riggsbee said.
''None of what we're doing suggests you go back and retrofit.''
If the State Board of Education approves the changes at
the April board meeting, new Tennessee school buses would
be updated to the national standards set in 2000. The last
revision was in 1990.
''We'd like to have them updated,'' Riggsbee said. ''Quite
frankly, the industry has changed so much.''
Some state board members were supportive of the proposed
changes and vowed to take another look at them in the coming
''We've got some good recommendations here,'' said Fielding
Rolston, vice chairman of the board.
Only Hubert McCullough, chairman of the board, expressed
concerns about making all districts adhere to the possible
''We're trying to make everybody the same and they're not.
The locals are paying for the majority of it,'' said McCullough,
who stopped short of saying he wouldn't support the changes.
''We've got time to think about it.''