SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — As the holiday break nears, Caddo Parish School District is unveiling a series of new buses hitting the streets — with a goal of shifting safety into higher gear.
“Safety has to be at the forefront of everything that we do. Parents are entrusting us every day with their most valuable asset: their children,” said Jeff Roberts, the School District’s newly tapped transportation director.
“We have a district that has an aging fleet of buses. A lot of those buses, when they reach 25 years of age, are taken out of service.”
The four new buses just released are part of a larger plan to filter out older models that have aged over decades of activity. The school district will have 25 new buses by the end of the month, Roberts said.
“Just like any other vehicle, the longer a bus is on the road, the more issues you have. Those could range from problems to frames to suspension to braking systems."
As for the new buses, Roberts said: "These buses are all under warranty, brand-new products that are top of the line.”
KSLA News 12 went inside one of the new $97,000 buses where Roberts highlighted enhanced safety features for students and drivers.
The interior of each bus is equipped with cameras that capture passenger and driver activity — increasing accountability. Each camera costs well over $2,000, Roberts said.
The cameras automatically record each day, allowing School District officials to access video with haste.
Roberts said each camera is well over $2,000.
“If there’s a reported incident on the bus, student behavior, those types of things, we can pull that,” Roberts explained. “If there’s a report of a driver and an issue with a driver, it’s captured with this front camera.”
Each bus now also is outfitted with front and rear air conditioning. Currently, half of the School District’s buses still lack air conditioning. School District officials hope to have all buses equipped with air conditioning by 2023.
“We’ve gone through every one of them [buses]," Roberts said. "We’ll continue to go through every one of them to make sure we’re putting the safest product on the road each day for out kids.”
The new buses can hold more children; each has a capacity of 77 students. Roberts said older models hold 65-70 riders.
The newer buses are assigned to the School District’s longest daily routes, some being as long as 40 miles round trip per day.
Caddo plans to have 250 new buses integrated into its fleet over the next decade, replacing a majority of the School District’s roughly 350 older buses currently in operation.
Collectively, the 250 buses cost $25 million, paid over 10 years.