Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco school bus drivers file grievance over beverage ban behind the wheel

LAND O'LAKES — After three hours on the road, Pasco County school bus driver John Kilousky was hot.

The temperature on his bus, even with the windows open and no kids aboard, was 105 degrees Friday. A small oscillating fan was pointed at his seat.

"It's just blowing hot air," said Kilousky, who wore shorts, a T-shirt and a cap.

No matter how heated he might get, though, the 10-year bus driver is not permitted to take even a sip of water while in the driver's seat. New rules set forth in the district's transportation operators handbook forbid it.

And that's got most drivers steamed.

"The common sense is, you're not supposed to be using your phone. You're not supposed to text," Kilousky said. "You're not supposed to drink now? But at the same time, you're supposed to use their radio when they call you."

He suggested the district had gone too far. And he was not alone.

On Friday, 409 of the district's 535 transportation employees filed a grievance over the new policy that greeted them as they returned to work this fall.

The rules state that a driver must lock down the bus in a safe location and leave the operator's compartment in order to have something to drink. That language was added to the handbook over the summer.

District officials said the change aimed to clarify safety procedures so that drivers would not eat or drink while their buses are in motion. Many drivers carry oversized bottles and cups that could obscure their view if they drank while driving.

The rules already had said that drivers should drink or eat only while not operating their buses.

"The term locked down in this sense refers to having the bus be inoperable (with the brake on)," district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said in an e-mail to the Times. "The previous language in the manual stated that bus drivers could not drink water while operating the vehicle. This section was added to provide greater clarity regarding what the term 'not operating the vehicle' meant."

The United School Employees of Pasco members argue that the district went overboard with the additional language, which the union calls a "policy of dehydration."

"It's micromanaging," union president Lynne Webb said. "It's taking away employees' ability to use common sense or judgment. … It shows a complete lack of respect and dignity for drivers as professionals."

Many bus drivers did not want to be named in a newspaper article about the issue. But they did discuss how buses get warmer with children on them, and they said they often have little time for breaks to drink during their morning and afternoon runs, which are about four to five hours each.

No one disputed the notion that a driver should not drink while a bus is moving.

"My policy rule is no eating or drinking on the bus," Kilousky said. "I will not do that while children are on the bus."

But they wondered what was wrong with having a swig of water while they were stopped at a red light or while they were parked but still in the operator's compartment.

Webb said the drivers are calling for the elimination of the new restriction. The union would be willing to work out more reasonable rules, if asked, she added.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Pasco school bus drivers file grievance over beverage ban behind the wheel 09/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 9:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. PolitiFact Florida checks out Rick Baker's talking point about the growth of St. Petersburg's A-rated schools

    Elections

    Rick Baker has used mailers, forums and social media to relay one big message in his campaign for St. Petersburg mayor: Schools in St. Petersburg saw drastic improvements when he was mayor from 2001 to 2010.

    Rick Baker, candidate for St. Petersburg mayor
  2. Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelly talks family, songwriting and more before Tampa show

    Music & Concerts

    A while back at the Grammys, Charles Kelley found himself in the same room as Paul McCartney. The Lady Antebellum singer, a seven-time Grammy winner in his own right, couldn't work up the courage to say hello.

    Lady Antebellum perform at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Friday. Credit: Eric Ray Davidson
  3. Clearwater suspect due in court after 9 die in sweltering San Antonio truck

    Nation

    SAN ANTONIO — Nine people are dead and the death toll could rise after emergency crews pulled dozens of people from a sweltering tractor-trailer found parked outside a Walmart in the midsummer Texas heat, victims of what officials said was an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone wrong.

    San Antonio police officers investigate the scene where eight people were found dead in a tractor-trailer loaded with at least 30 others outside a Walmart store in stifling summer heat in what police are calling a horrific human trafficking case, Sunday, July 23, 2017, in San Antonio. [Associated Press]
  4. What you need to know for Monday, July 24

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    At 1.2 million gallons, the house of Harry Barkett in South Tampa used more water than anyone else in the Tampa Bay region between Jan. 1 and May 31 of this year, when Tampa was in a severe drought. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  5. Discovering the true meaning of Black Forest cake in the German region itself

    Cooking

    The first time I had a taste of the Black Forest, it wasn't by way of cake.

    Black Forest Cake in Germany was granted legally protected status in 2013. It must use the gateau’s original ingredients, including kirsch, a brandy made from fermented sour cherries from the region.