New LED lighting systems on Poland buses improve safety
One of Poland Central School District’s two new 2021 school buses with LED lighting systems in the “School Bus” signs and stop arms is pictured here on the right. On the left is a 2018 bus without the LED lighting system for a daytime comparison.
POLAND – On a dark fall morning, on one of the long roads around Poland Central School District, the words “School Bus” glow with LED lighting as one of the district’s two newest buses approaches to pick up a student.
The two stop arms pop out with the stop signs on them radiating with LED lighting as well. The LED lighting from the “School Bus” signs atop the front and back of the bus shines on the road ahead and behind the bus, as a student enters the bus to be taken to school.
“We’re trying to make the buses as visible as we can,” Poland Central School District Transportation Supervisor Eric Taylor said. “It just makes perfect safety sense.”
When Poland Central School District purchased two new International school buses for the 2021-22 school year, officials decided to add the LED "School Bus" signs and stop arms for the buses through First Light Safety Products. The plan is for all future bus purchases at Poland to include these LED options as well, Taylor said.
Poland Central School District spreads across a wide area in northern Herkimer County and has what was once the longest bus run in the state. The bus run still covers close to 33,800 transportation miles per month.
So on early mornings or late evenings – and when buses are traveling on major roads such as State Route 8 and State Route 365 – any extra safety measure to improve lighting is important, Taylor said.
“When it’s dark out, sometimes you can’t identify a school bus from a dump truck or a freight truck, so you want the bus to be visible for student safety,” Taylor said. “You want the bus to be seen. You want the students to be seen.”
The school Transportation Department worked closely with Poland Superintendent Laura Dutton and School Business Official/Director of Facilities Chad Hess on the plan for purchasing buses with the LED lighting.
“Our annual budget planning traditionally includes the purchase of at least two standard buses,” Dutton said. “This planning allows the district to maintain the fleet and also gradually implement the benefits of industry changes.”
‘Two different worlds’
Poland Central School District Transportation Department Head Mechanic Larry Shepard said the LED lighting makes a big difference compared to the normal lights, and you can tell as you approach the buses.
“Walking up, everything’s different,” Shepard said. “It’s two different worlds.”
The First Light Safety Products company states on its website that the LED school bus signs can be read from more than 300 feet away and are visible beyond 1,000 feet.
Both Taylor and Shepard also drive buses at times and have experienced first-hand the improvement of the LED lighting.
“Definitely on the dark mornings, you feel a lot safer,” Shepard said. “It’s very important. Anything to make it better.”
“They stand out so much more,” Taylor said. “It’s great.”
Not only are the buses more visible, but the LED lighting brightens the road and makes it safer for students to cross the road and get on the bus, Taylor said.
“Crossing lighting for students is improved 100 percent,” Taylor said. “You don’t understand what the difference is until you see it.”
The LED lighting systems also come with 10-year warranties. Poland typically switches out buses every seven to eight years with new ones, so the 10-year warranty essentially means no maintenance is required on the LED systems, Taylor said.
The financial savings from decreased maintenance and parts purchases will likely cover most or all of the cost of the LED systems, in addition to increasing safety, Taylor said.
Even if a bulb goes out with the LED system, the rest of the bulbs stay lit, and there are so many bulbs that the signs stay lit, Shepard said. Between that and the warranty, any issues with the LED system are covered, Shepard said.
“There should be no maintenance whatsoever,” Shepard said.
On other buses, there is regular maintenance on the stop arms and school bus signs – such as replacing any bulbs that go out, Shepard said.
“There’s a lot more to a school bus than people think,” Shepard said.
‘The whole way’
Taylor and Shepard started by researching LED systems around April 2021 and found First Light Safety Products online. Due to COVID-19, they participated in a virtual meeting and demonstration with the company.
Then they called officials from school districts who have had the systems for a few years and found high support for the product, Taylor said.
They additionally arranged for Leonard Bus Sales, which is where Poland purchases International buses from, to bring a bus with the LED systems installed to Poland for an in-person demonstration, and the improvement was obvious, Taylor said.
The plan to purchase the LED systems was presented to school administrators, and they were very supportive, Taylor said.
“They’ve certainly been with us the whole way,” Taylor said.
This year, the LED systems were installed by the manufacturer after purchase, but going forward, the LED systems will be a direct option for the International buses, Taylor said.
The two new buses replace two 2012 buses. Poland has about 20 buses total in its fleet.
The bus purchases also came in well under budget, Taylor said.
Taylor locked in two leftover 2021 gas buses in January 2021 because he knew there could be a delay on 2022 buses because COVID-19 has caused difficulties in getting parts. Poland received the 2021 buses in July, and many schools are still waiting for their 2022 buses, Taylor said.
Other safety improvements
The LED systems aren’t the only improvement on the newest Poland buses. The two purchased for the 2021-22 school year also have an overall upgraded system and style compared to even the 2020-21 school year buses, Taylor said.
Starting with last year’s school buses, there are new camera systems from Surveillance 247. Instead of three cameras at the front, middle and back of the bus, there are now four cameras that have the capability of viewing and zooming in on any seat on the bus, Taylor said.
“You can actually see everything great now,” Taylor said.
With the new system, all of the cameras have audio instead of just the front camera. They are also thermal cameras, so video can be seen in the dark. The video is stored for two to three months before being deleted, and short video clips or photo snapshots can be saved.
The camera system helps with student safety, student discipline and monitoring for COVID-19 quarantines, Taylor said.
Bus drivers’ seats are also improved with new air ride suspension seats that offer more support and can be adjusted up and down with the push of a button. The older school buses require a lot of effort – and often two people – to adjust the seats. Last year’s buses upgraded to a spring-loaded button, and this year’s take it to the next level, which is important for bus drivers traveling long distances on bumpy roads, Taylor said.
“It’s great for the back support,” Taylor said.
The two new buses also have new red lights above the driver to help both students on the bus and outside the bus see the driver better.
“It all goes back to visibility and student safety,” Taylor said. “You want the students to be able to see the bus driver and the bus driver to be able to see the students.”
Taylor and Shepard said they are always looking for the latest safety upgrades.
“Then we’ll see what’s best for 2022,” Shepard said.
The back of one of Poland Central School District’s two new 2021 school buses with LED lighting systems in the “School Bus” signs and stop arms is pictured here on the left. On the right is a 2018 bus without the LED lighting system for a daytime comparison.
One of Poland Central School District’s two new 2021 school buses with LED lighting systems in the “School Bus” signs and stop arms is pictured here at night.
A close-up of one of Poland Central School District’s two new 2021 school buses with LED lighting systems in the “School Bus” signs and stop arms.
A close-up of the front stop arm on one of Poland Central School District’s two new 2021 school buses with LED lighting systems in the “School Bus” signs and stop arms.
A close-up of the front “School Bus” sign on one of Poland Central School District’s two new 2021 school buses with LED lighting systems in the “School Bus” signs and stop arms.
A close-up of the back stop arm on one of Poland Central School District’s two new 2021 school buses with LED lighting systems in the “School Bus” signs and stop arms.
The back of one of Poland Central School District’s two new 2021 school buses with LED lighting systems in the “School Bus” signs and stop arms.
Poland Central School District’s two new 2021 school buses also have red lights above the driver’s seats, as pictured here, to improve visibility of the driver for students inside and outside the bus.
A close-up of one of the four cameras installed on each of Poland’s new 2020 and 2021 buses.