Shelby Co. school bus contractor pledges new tech, safer track record in 2017-18

Shelby Co. school bus contractor pledges new tech, safer track record in 2017-18

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Windshield cams with real-time feedback. Tougher background checks. A deeper driver bullpen.

Durham School Services, the school bus contractor for Shelby County Schools (SCS) and for the county's six municipal districts, isn't messing around with the overhaul of its safety image.

For starters, Durham's installing DriveCam in every bus by Thanksgiving. The windshield-mounted cameras automatically roll on spontaneous driving incidents and speed changes.

"If there is an unusual event--a sudden turn, sudden braking--it will capture 12 seconds before and 12 seconds after the incident," Durham School Services Communications Director Kate Walden said.

Walden said DriveCam will complement CCTV cameras to record passenger behavior, as well as GPS tracking of every bus.

"We'll be able to track the distance and location of every bus at specific times, including their speed and pre- and post-inspections," she said. "Managers at our training barnyards will be able to review video feeds from the CCTV cameras."

Drivers have also run the gamut of background checks: school security, third-party vendor, TBI and FBI, motor vehicle, Department of Transportation (DOT) drug screens, and DOT medical exams.

"The process is thorough, enough that only one in 12 applicants becomes a Durham driver," Walden said.

The 590 drivers who've made the cut so far will fill a fleet for SCS and the municipal districts that serves 553 routes with 610 buses at the ready.

"It is our expectation that they will manage that in a way that they can always have safe and reliable drivers in front of our kids every day," SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said.

Durham will also have to maintain a driver staff of 105 percent to meet its contractual obligation of a driver surplus. The company's driver shortage during the 2015-16 SCS school year cost it nearly a million dollars in performance bonuses. Hopson said Durham's SCS driver staff is at 103 percent, but should reach 107 percent by August 7, the first day of school. Walden said the company expects to reach 108 percent for all seven of Shelby County's public school districts during the first week of school.

A year ago, a Durham driver with a spotty motor vehicle history wrecked his bus, killing 6 children. He's awaiting trial. WMC Action News 5 also conducted a 2-year investigation of school bus driver safety violations in Shelby County from 2014 through 2016. For our comprehensive Durham bus safety coverage, please click here.

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