The mission of the DPS Student Transportation Unit is to ensure proper certification of school bus drivers and school bus driver instructors; to establish and maintain a safety and training program; and to continually strive to improve the safety and efficiency of student transportation in the State of Arizona.
In 1960 the first “Rules and Regulations for Arizona School Bus Operation: Standards and Training Procedures for Drivers” were included in the Arizona Administrative Code. Thus, the Pupil Transportation Program came into existence as part of the Arizona Highway Department, Traffic Safety Division. Three staff members maintained records on approximately 500 school bus drivers and two employees were responsible for training drivers statewide. By 1973 there were over 2,000 certified school bus drivers and the Pupil Transportation Program transferred to the Office of Highway Safety.
In 1979 the Program transferred to the Arizona Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division where it remained until 1993 when it transferred to Arizona Department of Public Safety and changed its name to the Student Transportation Unit. At that time there were approximately 5,000 certified school bus drivers and 250 certified instructors. By January 1999 the certified drivers increased to 8,100 and the instructors to 500, a 62% increase in drivers and a 100% increase in instructors in six years.
In 1996 a school bus driver database was completed. The program allows immediate access to driver, instructor, accident and other records in a matter of seconds without having to rely on paper files and time consuming research. However, data entry is still required to keep the database current. In 2000 three additional positions were allocated to the Unit bringing the staff to six members.
In 1960 one employee was assigned as a statewide trainer. A year later a second trainer was added to the Pupil Transportation Unit. By 1964, five-day new driver training and two-day refresher training clinics were held each summer conducted by personnel from the Traffic Safety Division and the Arizona Highway Patrol. In 1971 a mobile unit traveled throughout the state training drivers at their place of employment replacing the summer clinics saving the school districts approximately $100,000 during that year. Between 1978 and 1982 school bus driver training was completely transformed.
In 1982, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, using federal funds, began training school district personnel to conduct their own training. Funding ended one year later. However, school districts continued to be responsible for school bus driver training. The school district instructors were trained and certified by Motor Vehicle Division personnel. In 1996 Arizona Administrative Code (Minimum Standards for School Bus Drivers) incurred several major changes. One of them was the added requirement of testing and certifying behind-the-wheel instructors. It was estimated that this requirement could result in a minimum of 1,200 additional certified instructors by 2001.
- School bus driver certifications (approximately 2,300 per year)
- Annual renewal of school bus driver certifications (approximately 7,000 each year).
- Administer / maintain school bus driver safety and training program.
- School bus driver instructor training and certifications (approximately 120 each year).
- Administrative Hearing Preparation and Proceedings.
- Violation Notices for vehicles illegally passing school buses.
- Maintain resource Library.
- Customer service.
- Compliance reviews (to ensure compliance with state and federal laws/rules).
- Complaint investigation (often requiring an on-site visit).
- School bus driver training.
- School bus emergency evacuation drills.
- School bus accident review.
- Review / maintain accident reports.
- Gather / summarize accident statistics.
- Drafting legislation and administrative rules.
- Federal grant writing and compliance.
- Liaison between DPS Student Transportation and in-state school districts (approximately 800 including charter schools), vendors, contract providers, and professional organizations for pupil transportation.
- Liaison between DPS Student Transportation and out-of-state professional organizations for pupil transportation and manufacturers.
- School bus safety workshops for school bus drivers and students.
- Statewide school bus safety public awareness program.