When you are managing a fleet of business vehicles, it's important to be aware and courteous of the seasonal hazards. You drive carefully on icy roads in the winter, watch out for young foolish animals in the spring, avoid J-walking tourists in the summer. And when fall comes back around, it's time to keep an eye out for school buses and children around the local schools. There are many reasons to be careful around schools. While avoiding tragedy is the greatest goal, it's also not the only concern of an efficient business fleet. As any experienced driver knows, nothing can set back a tightly balanced schedule like a school zone. Waiting for buses, waiting for cross-walks, and worst of all waiting for the long lines of parents stopped in the streets to drop off or pick up their children.
Now that school is back in session, any clever fleet manager and their drivers should learn to identify and neatly avoid school districts when planning your daily routes.
Map Out the School Zones
The first step is to make sure the local school zones appear on your mapping program. While your drivers may be roughly aware of where local school zones stop and start (and where speed limits drop significantly during certain hours), it will be much easier to plan when you can see what you're planning for.
A yellow overlay above each school zone, marking which streets are included, is all you need to start planning your routes around them. If possible, you may also want to make note of each individual cross-walk area. This will help any drivers who must move through a school zone to see the most risky areas well ahead of time and be prepared to stop carefully.
Mark 'Parent Waiting Streets' in Red
Of course, school zones themselves aren't the only worry. The worst place your fleet drivers can find themselves is stuck behind dozens of waiting parents. The streets near the drop-off loop for each school will be packed to a stand-still during certain hours every morning and afternoon of active school days.
Make sure that your routing plans avoid these streets at all costs, particularly during the usual morning and afternoon hours where they are at their worst. Having these specific streets marked in red on your mapping program will help you avoid them while planning and help your drivers avoid them if they have to extemporize on the road.
Mark Local Bus Stop Outside of School Zones
Next, it's important to note that there are a few danger areas outside of school zones as well. Bus stops, in particular, can cause a serious slowdown to your fleet routes during the day and these spread out all over town. The problem with bus stops is that it's dangerous for the children for cars to pass even when there are two or more lanes to do so.
Fortunately, bus stops tend to be spaced out such that your drivers can easily take an adjacent street so as not to be caught waiting for a bus. And, incidentally, can avoid the risk of children playing in the street while they wait for the bus as well.
Know the Zone Schedules, Be Careful All Day
Finally, make sure you are aware of the scheduling for when the school zones are officially active. While you can trust your fleet driver's discretion to watch for school children on their way to and from school in the surrounding neighborhoods, often those lights are flashing for an hour or two before and after most of the children are out in the streets.
These flashing lights can significantly slow down your driving schedule whether or not children are present. When you know the hours, you also know when these streets return to 'pass through' streets during class hours and in the evening.
It's vital that every business driver (and private drivers for that matter) are aware of the risks of school children walking to and from the schools. School zones are where the most care must be taken, or avoided completely, but it's also important to note that children will be outside playing at any hour before or after school and in every neighborhood no matter how close they may be to a local school.
Be careful, keep your eyes open, and plan your routes to avoid both the dangers and slowdowns of back-to-school activities. For more expert tips on how to manage your business fleet with efficiency and strategy, contact us today!