Five Things to Ask Your Kid’s Bus Driver – A Guide for Mom & Dad

Guest Post By Kevin Mest, Sr. Vice President of Passenger Services at Zonar


  1. What qualifications have you earned to drive a school bus?

According to federal law, bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license. Other regulations vary by state and district, but they all require criminal background checks as well as random drug and alcohol testing. With driver shortages at historic levels, it’s tempting to cut corners and use non-qualified drivers.

  1. How do you safeguard children getting on the right bus?

Younger students do not always know what bus to get on and sometimes inadvertently follow classmates onto the wrong bus. When school begins, drivers and teachers should be preparing students to understand where to go and who rides with them. Schools should also utilize a bus monitor to assist students and think about technology solutions that help verify if a student is on the appropriate bus.

  1. How do you handle bullying or other inappropriate bus behavior?

Asking this question is important on two fronts: 1) a trained bus driver should be able to handle such situations and give parents peace-of-mind; and 2) if the driver is not trained, parents should speak to their local school boards immediately to make it happen. Unfortunately, about ten percent of all reported middle and high school bullying happens on the school bus. Student management of other children onboard buses is the number one safety issue for drivers.

  1. How do you safely load and unload the bus?

Drivers are required by law to stop for a school bus when it’s loading or unloading passengers, but oftentimes they don’t. There are a lot of things bus drivers can do to improve loading and unloading safety, like creating a universally recognized safe-to-cross signal. The point of asking this question is to ensure that the driver is actively thinking about loading and unloading safety.

  1. Are there other things the school can do to improve bus safety outcomes?

School districts need to invest in the latest safety equipment and technology for school-age pedestrians. One safety tool making headway in the busing industry is “pupil transportation” technology. This tech improves the safety and security of transporting children by allowing drivers and parents to quickly see where and when riders enter and exit the bus. In the case of an emergency, all the information is in one place to locate specific passengers.


Kevin Mest, Sr. Vice President of Passenger Services at Zonar

Kevin joined Zonar in April 2015 as the Senior Vice President of Passenger Services, responsible for the strategic growth of Zonar in the passenger services markets.  Kevin has over twenty-five years of leadership experience in the industry.

Most recently, Kevin was the COO for Illinois Central School Bus (ICSB), the fourth largest pupil transportation provider in the US.  Previously, Kevin was the Corporate Vice-President of Business Development for Shuttle Smart.  He was also with Laidlaw, then First Student for 24 years as the Regional Vice President of Operations in Seattle responsible for a seven state Region in the NW.

 Kevin began his career as a CPA with Deloitte in the Seattle practice office.  Kevin is originally from St. Louis Missouri and a graduate of Washington State University.  In his spare time, he can be found engaged in a community activity or enjoying the outdoors backpacking/hiking or bicycling.

Photo and infographic courtesy of Kevin Mest

Lindsey Jenn

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