Driving a school bus is very challenging and certainly one of the most safety sensitive types of commercial driving. Working under New York State regulations and guidelines that we were instrumental in creating, we train over 200 applicants per year to become bus drivers.
Our safety manual (the System Safety Program Plan), which was created by our Company, has become a model for like businesses to follow. This manual is comprehensive and is used by our school bus and transit employees. This manual is not state or federally mandated for school bus operation, but we feel it provides direct insight and directive on all aspects of the employees' position regarding safety. New employees receive this manual in their hiring packages and are required to bring it to all mandated refresher courses.
Additionally, Suffolk Transportation employs 38 active 19-A Certified Examiners in its Safety and Training Division (an additional four examiners work for the Company in other capacities) to maintain a current school bus certification status for all our drivers. A list of all Suffolk Transportation school bus driver instructors and Certified Examiners and their certification numbers is enclosed. The Company has developed the following practices that exceed the mandatory training: Corporate "Mentor Program" focusing on education, self-assessment and communication; over 25 National Safety Council Defensive Driving Courses provided annually on site at no charge to drivers/employees; annual award ceremony recognizing years of service and outstanding drivers; as well as SAC cards (Safety Action Cards), a road observation review system and utilization of outside independent safety inspectors. Each vehicle in our fleet is equipped with a Child Check System to be used to remind drivers of the requirement to walk to the back of the bus and check for sleeping children. This method has been effective in reinforcing the check for sleeping children procedures taught during initial training, in all refreshers and reiterated in newsletters and memos.
Suffolk Transportation provides over 500 hours of classroom training annually which includes the courses referenced above, as well as refreshers, basic courses, pre-service, accident retraining, special needs training and CDL classes for applicants. In addition to training our drivers and driver assistants, our training division has a special group of drivers who go out to the schools we service to teach kindergarten, first and second graders school bus safety. As a courtesy, this service is free of charge to all our school districts. This program, which is very well received, is a unique blend of classroom and "on bus" instruction. It has been utilized in many districts, includes information related to safe boarding and exiting procedures, crossing procedures, the danger zone, emergency exits, seat belts, inclement weather, student riding rules as well as other specific hazards encountered by children. Refreshers also enforce pupil management skills and different techniques to use when managing student behaviors, as well as awareness of the signs or signals of child abuse.
This past year, the Company introduced a specialized training tool for use by the Safety and Training Department called the "Suffolk Six." This program represents the six items a driver needs to incorporate into his/her daily route. This six-point checklist includes procedures for pre-trip, railroad crossings, loading and unloading, mirror usage, defensive driving and post-trip inspections. This tool is used by every mentor and discussed in every sensitivity and refresher course. The Suffolk Six has become our rallying call for safety.
Evidence of our successful training program can be measured by the awards and recognitions we receive. As an industry leader in bus transportation safety, our employees have won numerous awards at school bus and transit competitions. We attribute this success to the dedication of our drivers and the high-quality training they receive at our facility. In the last ten years, our employees have won over 75 awards at bus competitions at the County and State levels.
In conjunction with our constant discussions, handouts, and classes on sleeping children, we have recently implemented a safety initiative called the "Doll Program." We have purchased small dolls and are placing them on vehicles every morning. During the pre-trip the driver must find this doll and radio in to the office immediately. In instances where the doll is not found, the supervisor notifies the driver to come in and corrective action is taken. This is a tool we use to confirm that all drivers conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection and that they understand the need to check for sleeping children and the need to check for suspicious packages.
Several years ago, Suffolk Transportation implemented the "Bully Frog" program. This program was written by two Long Island women to spread awareness of bullying in education. Their books and school-based programs have won many prestigious awards and have been featured on several television and radio programs. The "Frog" is posted in every large bus for all to see. Our refreshers devote a section to the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), and use the "Frog" as a resource. DASA was signed into law in 2010, and has become a staple in our training programs ever since. With the implementation of this law we prepared memos and handouts for all staff enforcing the importance of this law. A "The Bullying Stops Here" sticker has been placed on the back and side of every school vehicle in our fleet to enforce our no bullying policy.
Suffolk Transportation offers a service to all school districts to identify children who are in kindergarten. We issue plastic tags to the district for each student who is in kindergarten so the drivers can easily identify these children. This ensures that no kindergarten student on a large bus is dropped off without a parent authorized adult at any stop. This program has been very successful.