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Hillsborough fixes school buses' top speed at 57
Technology takes away the option to go faster.
By LETITIA STEIN, Times Staff Writer
Published September 27, 2007
Hillsborough school officials are capping speeds at 57 mph. District bus technicians recently began setting the limit using computerized tools available for newer buses.
TAMPA - Speeding will not be an option much longer on many Hillsborough school buses.
School officials are capping speeds at 57 mph. District bus technicians recently began setting the limit using computerized tools available for newer buses.
John Franklin, Hillsborough's general manager of transportation, said there's no reason for school buses to go faster.
"It's a safety issue," he said. "School buses should go slow. They should not speed. They should use precautions."
He noted that buses generally are expected to stick to the right lane on highways. The highly visible yellow buses should not be passing other vehicles, he said.
The target speed for Hillsborough school buses is 55 mph, but many buses in the county must travel on interstates. The 57 mph ceiling gives drivers a little flexibility, Franklin said.
He also clarified a possible misconception: that speed limits could cause troubles for buses going up hills, which are few and far between locally. He said onboard electric systems make automatic adjustments for engine workloads, so there is no need for concern.
The union that represents Hillsborough bus drivers expects little impact.
"I don't believe there are a lot of buses out there that are really at high speeds," said Luis Perez, president of the Hillsborough School Employees Federation.
Hillsborough will set the speed limits over the next three to five months as the buses are serviced. Slightly more than half of Hillsborough's fleet of about 1,400 buses will be affected.
To set the limits, technicians connect a laptop computer to ports on the bus dash and engine. That allows the technicians to set idle times, shift points and RPM controls.
Hillsborough's efforts to cap bus speed set it apart from neighboring Pasco County schools, at least for now. Pasco transportation director Mike Park expects all school buses one day will benefit from similar technology.
"In Pasco County right now, we just don't have a lot of money and can't afford it," he said.
Pinellas school officials did not return calls seeking comment.
In Hillsborough, the cost to set speeds is "almost nonexistent," Franklin said. He said the technology came with many of the newer buses.
School officials don't want parents to worry about whether their child's bus has speed caps. All drivers are instructed to follow the same limits.
"Our drivers should not be going fast anyway," Franklin said.
Letitia Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 226-3400. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.