School bus service provider seizes chance to improve after school bus gets lost for two hours

By Jack Yu

Officials at Suffolk Transportation Service, Inc. are seeking a way to better handle multitasking and avoid errors in the future, after a school bus got lost for nearly two hours carrying nine students last Tuesday.

“One of the things that we looked at was that in a case there are numbers of things going on at the same time, how do we connect to the resources outside that building,” Tom McAteer, the Suffolk Transportation executive vice president, said. “We determined a way and some people in another building that would be able to tap into if something like this happens again.”

The school bus was found in St. James, Suffolk County, about 3.5 miles away from the Tackan Elementary School in Nesconset.

McAteer explained that the dispatcher was involved in a couple of small accidents when the accident happened last Tuesday.

“The main communication between the bus drivers and dispatcher would still be the radio,” McAteer said. However, they are looking for a way for officials to handle multiple tasks when a similar situation occurs.

“We transfer 25,000 kids a day and this the first time this particular thing has ever happened in my experience,” McAteer said. “The was confusion between the list of drop-off locations that the driver had and the list that was provided by the school.” The dispatcher has the radio that connected to the bus driver and also the GPS to track where the buses are, McAteer pointed out.

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Once concerned parents called police saying their child had not returned home from school yet. The dispatch at the Suffolk Transportation got in touch with the bus driver to ask her to stop the bus.

“Bus drivers should be mandated to keep in constant contact with school or dispatch if there’s a delay of more than 5 minutes,” Robert Scott, whose son takes a school bus to school every day, said. “If they are lost, it should be a mandate they go to a fire department or police station for safe and proper direction.”

Scott suggested parents give children their own cellular that allows children to call if there is anything out of the ordinary rather than simply relying on bus drivers or school officials,

“We analyzed what the problem was and hope it would never happen again,” Teresa O’Halloran said. O’Halloran is the Executive Director of Risk Management, Safety, and Training at Suffolk Transportation Service. “Fortunately, all of the children got home safely, that is the most important.”
McAteer said in a phone interview that the safety of these children is the most important. They will strive to offer a secure transportation experience for these children and improve to better manage similar situations in the future.

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