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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingSeptember 19 - September 25, 2018
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Autumn Safety

Propane-school-bus-e1475700467921 576a8By Brian J. Riker

September is upon us. It is now time for all things pumpkin, cooler nights and, for many of us, spectacular views of red, yellow and orange as the leaves change colors.

There is another display of red and yellow that is coming into season: the school bus. Across the country, kids have begrudgingly returned to school (as parents celebrate). To many motorists however, the appearance of a school bus is an annoyance or aggravation that is delaying their daily commute. To the parents of the children on board it is supposed to be a safe haven, a means to transport their children to school and back without harm.

In addition to my towing career, I am also a former school bus driver. Bus driving was challenging to say the least. Attempting to control upwards of 70 children of various ages while piloting a 30,000-lbs. vehicle down the highway safely is difficult enough. Bus drivers should not have to worry about the motoring public disobeying their signal lights or rear-ending their bus while stopped.

School bus stopping laws vary across the nation; I only want to remind you to be aware of the potential for a stopped bus around every corner, especially during the early morning and late afternoon. Some areas may also have half-day kindergarten, so be on the lookout for school buses around lunch as well.

If in doubt, stop! It is unsafe and usually illegal to overtake (pass) a stopped school bus from the rear, and never advisable to pass a stopped school bus on the right where passengers enter and exit. In many states you are also required to stop for a school bus displaying flashing red lights when approaching from the opposite direction, unless there is a non-mountable curb separating the traffic lanes. Take the time to learn the rules in the states you travel in.

September also is a good time to remind ourselves of the unpredictable nature of pedestrians—both children and adults alike. With the cooler weather and beautiful fall vistas, you may notice increased foot traffic along streets and secondary roads. Often these pedestrians are distracted by their phones, conversation with another pedestrian and/or simply enthralled with the beauty of fall.

Be particularly aware near school zones, parks, fields and other places children gather. The first few weeks after returning to school, they are still adjusting to the new schedule or maybe a new building or classmates, and are more absentminded than usual. This leads to unpredictable behaviors and the tendency to dart into traffic increases in the afternoons when they are fooling around to release the pent-up energy from spending the day in a classroom.

If you do not already do so, now is the time to implement a mandatory "circle check" each time you prepare to move a vehicle—even in your own yard. Children are fascinated by trucks and machinery of all shapes and sizes and can get into some incredible places.

You may wonder why every time a utility truck parks somewhere the driver places a traffic cone at the corner of their truck. Some even place two—front and rear. This is to remind them to complete a 360-degree circle check of their rig before moving it. This simple yet effective behavior has allowed them to find children hiding in or on the equipment, some even under the truck. ... Imagine if you moved your truck with a child under it.

Lastly, with fall comes a change in daylight hours and weather. Adjust your trip planning to account for driving slower during non-daylight hours and the delays caused by school traffic. In many parts of the country, you need to anticipate falling leaves on the highway.

Combined with rain they can become slick.

Now would be a good time to give your trucks a thorough inspection and begin prepping them for the colder weather. Consider changing out your summer survival supplies for colder weather supplies such as blankets.

Brian J. Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at brian.riker@fleetcompliancesolutions.net .
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