Our professional drivers are required to possess a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). They must pass background criminal and motor vehicle record checks. Before our professional drivers are allowed to drive a school bus they must pass pre-employment and annual physical examinations and drug tests. Throughout the year all NISD professional drivers are also subject to random, post accident, and reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing.
Drivers must also go through very extensive state and local training. That training includes CDL training, driver behind-the-wheel testing, Texas State driver certification class, defensive driving, student management, policies and procedures, first aid, CPR, and Nonviolent Crisis Intervention. Our special needs professional drivers must also take Special Needs and Lift Bus Procedures classes. Most professional drivers receive up to 60 hours of training before and during their first few weeks behind the school bus wheel. Our NISD Transportation safety training has received national awards.
School Bus Driver and Assistant Training
Northside ISD's Transportation Department is dedicated to providing initial classroom, hands-on, on-the-job, refresher and regular in-service training to all employees operating and serving on our school buses. Our training program is set up to provide year round training to over 1000 existing and new employees.
Initial School Bus Driver Training
After successful completion of fingerprinting and background checks, a Commercial Drivers physical, a physical performance evaluation, and a pre-employment drug screen, drivers are entered into Commercial Drivers License (CDL) training. This training includes the necessary classroom, vehicle familiarization, and self-study materials along with 15 to 20 hours of behind the wheel skills training needed to obtain a Texas Commercial Driver's License (CDL) with Passenger and School Bus endorsements and no air brake restrictions. Following successful completion of the Texas DPS commercial motor vehicle road test conducted by a Texas DPS examiner and while awaiting their Texas School Bus Driver Certification Enrollment card, new drivers are placed in on-the-job training to learn the areas served by the transportation station and dealing with students by riding with experienced drivers. They are also entered into classroom training for in the following courses: Policies and Procedures (3 hours), Student Management (6 hours), and Emergency School Bus Evacuation (3 hours). Drivers also complete the American Heart Association's Heartsaver First Aid (3 hours) and CPR/AED (3 hour) training courses. Drivers are also required to complete within their first 180 days the 20-hour Texas Initial School Bus Drivers Certification Course as required by state law.
Initial School Bus Assistant Training
Following completion of a physical performance evaluation and successful background checks, new assistants are provided specialized training designed to acquaint them with the many challenges, opportunities, and rewards available in working with special needs children. They complete a newly implemented Bus Assistant's course (6 hours), Policy and Procedures (3 hours), Student Management (6 hours), and Emergency School Bus Evacuation (3 hours) training. During the time they are receiving classroom training new Assistants ride with experienced Special Needs Teams to put into practice techniques and information learned in the classroom. Assistants also complete the American Heart Association Heartsaver First Aid (3 hours) and CPR/AED (3 hours) courses and receive a minimum of 6 hours training in Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (NCI) provided by instructors certified by the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI).
Training for School Bus Drivers Assigned to Special Needs Teams
Drivers assigned to Special Needs routes receive additional Special Needs training (6-9 hours). This training provides an emphasis on driving skills, proper and safe operation of wheel chair lifts, securing wheel chairs, installing car seats and using other special needs equipment, and care of special needs students. Drivers also receive Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (NCI) training on an as needed basis.
Recurring Training for Employees
School bus drivers and assistants receive annual refresher training in Student Management (3 hours), CPR/AED (3 hours) and assistants receive 6 hours of annual training in NCI. Both drivers and assistants receive biannual refresher training in Policy and Procedures (3 hours), First Aid (3 hours), and Emergency School Bus Evacuation (3 hours). Assistants receive biannual Bus Assistant training (6 hours) and Special Needs drivers receive 6 hours of Special Needs refresher training.
All employees attend regular Department In-Service training sessions. Each training session provides general safety training, review of accidents and accident trends, introduction of new procedures or changes to existing procedures, and specific subject area training or review of topics of interest to drivers and assistants.
The state of Texas requires an annual commercial driver physical for all school bus drivers and an annual check of each driver's Motor Vehicle Record (MVR). During this MVR check, school bus drivers are assessed points based on requirements set by Texas DPS and if a school bus driver accumulates 10 or more points, they are no longer allowed to drive a school bus in Texas. Northside exceeds this requirement by conducting a semi-annual MVR check of all school bus drivers. This semi-annual check includes coaches who drive school buses to athletic events. All drivers are required by law to carry a current valid physical card or a copy of the card with them whenever they are driving the school bus.
Texas law requires that CDL licensed school bus drivers be subject to the US Department of Transportation's (DOT) random drug and alcohol testing program for CDL licensed drivers. Each year Northside ISD conducts over 500 random drug and 100 random alcohol tests of the district's CDL licensed drivers. Northside ISD also conducts reasonable suspicion and post-accident drug and alcohol tests in accordance with DOT and district policies.
Texas also requires that all school bus drivers be certified to operate a school bus and transport children. All school bus drivers must be recertified every three years and cannot operate a Northside ISD School Bus without a valid state certification.
All school bus drivers are required by law to have all of the following; a valid and current driver's license, a current commercial driver physical card or copy of it, and a valid school bus driver certification card with them whenever transporting students on a school bus.
Previously Qualified or CDL Licensed School Bus Drivers
All previously qualified or rehired bus drivers complete the same physical, physical performance evaluation, and pre-employment drug screen as a brand new initial school bus driver. Their experience is evaluated and the appropriate CDL training given to ensure they have both the "S" and "P" endorsements and no air-brake restriction. Drivers are given on-the-job training with experienced drivers to assist them in learning the area and attend the same classroom training as new drivers.
Start of School Year Training
All regular route drivers are provided a copy of their routes before the start of school and are required to practice this route several times to ensure they can find every school bus stop on their route the first day of school. Driver license, physicals, and certifications are checked and verified and all employees are provided any updates or changes to procedures that may have occurred since the end of the previous school year. Special Needs drivers and drivers assigned to cap runs, bi-lingual, ESL, and mid-day pre-kindergarten routes typically receive their finalized routes the Friday before school starts and practice them that day.