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School Bus Drivers Go Back to Classroom

Efforts are focused on safety at Lamers, with help of simulated driving courses to reduce accidents in a risk-free environment.

In its first year as the transportation company for the Muskego-Norway School District, Lamers had to convince school parents who were happy with the previous results from Durham School services that thewas a good one.

Inviting them to visit a classroom that keeps its drivers trained and monitored for safety procedures was a step in the right direction.

As part of a rotating 'classroom on wheels,' a specially-equipped motorcoach has been parked at the Muskego terminal to refresh each of its 62 drivers on safety training. Marty Huss, who has been an instructor for 10 years, said the 'decision driving' class is the best way to ensure that the people behind the wheel know how to react in any situation.

"If they can't drive safely, then they aren't driving for Lamers," Huss said. "This is the best way to retrain people in a risk-free environment."

Inside the coach are 'desks' that arrange small classes in view of a screen depicting a virtual route. Each driver then takes turns in a virtual driver's seat in another room, with multiple screens (windshield and side views) to put them into various driving scenarios.

"I can make it rain, I can make it foggy, make it night time, have their brakes fail - just a variety of situations that drivers need to know how to handle safely," Huss explained.

The effects of movement are felt in the steering wheel and can be simulated in the floor directly underneath the drivers seat. Speed, directional signals and other instruments are also available to the driver to monitor and control their driving. In one driving scenario, drivers must react to a truck just over the center line coming toward the bus; in another, a tire blows out and you must safely react to it.

Jennifer Baade, dispatcher at the Muskego terminal, said the classes are part of ongoing training, but the simulation makes training more hands-on. That is especially key, she said, when dealing with their biggest safety challenge: after school at Muskego High School.

"We've got 27 bus routes attempting to leave the lot, along with teachers who want to get home, as well as a host of teenage drivers that have only one or two years' experience under their belt," she said. "It's a lot to watch out for, and these trainings help all of our drivers reduce accidents."

The simulator has been in use less than two years, but Lamers plans to keep touring with it to each of their 30 terminals throughout the state. Officials have credited the program in helping them to achieve 2012 Safety Award from the International Motor Coach Group, which consists of more than 52 companies.

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