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April 01, 2007  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Top 10 Maintenance Programs for 2007

In our sixth installment of the series, we again shine the spotlight on some of North America’s premier pupil transportation shops. This year’s Top 10 includes dozens of dedicated school bus technicians who have sharpened their skills and embraced advances in repair technology.

by SBF staff editors Steve Hirano, Thomas McMahon, Claire Atkinson and Tim Crowley


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About half of the technicians at Blue Springs have more than 25 years of experience.

 

Drawing on experience, technology

Blue Springs School District
Blue Springs, Mo.

With an experienced team of technicians and a modernized maintenance facility, the Blue Springs School District has a firm grip on safe and reliable pupil transportation.

About half of the shop staffers have served more than 25 years in their field, and their experience shows. One clear indication is Blue Springs’ performance on annual inspections by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The district has achieved a score of at least 90 percent for 15 years in a row.

Transportation Director Glen McMillian says that keeping up with advances in maintenance technology is a key element of Blue Springs’ program. The shop is equipped with wireless Internet access, allowing the technicians to check the Web for parts and specifications for the fleet. Each two technicians have their own computer, which they also use to run diagnostics on the buses.

Drivers at Blue Springs use Zonar’s Electronic Vehicle Inspection Report System for pre-trip examinations of their buses, feeding data into a separate maintenance software program and allowing shop staff and supervisors to check up on their work. McMillian says that the technology can fit a year’s worth of pre-trip inspection records on one disc, eliminating stacks of paperwork and enabling easier access to the information.

The department also makes use of Zonar’s GPS capability to keep track of the buses as well as to monitor their idle time and speed.

“If someone breaks down, we don’t have to guess where they are,” McMillian says. “We can find exactly where they are and the best way to get there.”

Fleet Facts
Fleet composition: 147 buses, 177 total vehicles
Total shop staff: 9
Number of bus bays: 7
Annual mileage: 1,800,000
Students transported: 10,000
Schools served: 23

 



All of Discovery Coach’s technicians have gone through a two- or-four-year technical college program.

 

Teamwork helps techs watch for problems

Discovery Coach
Sheboygan, Wis.

Discovery Coach provides school bus service to the Sheboygan Area School District as part of its diverse menu of transportation offerings. Established in 1949 by John and Lucille Prigge with their sons, Jerry and Jim, the company is currently operated by the third generation of the Prigge family and also offers chartered bus service and operates tours in and around the state.

For Discovery, the family atmosphere extends to the shop. President Dennis Prigge says that a strong working relationship between drivers and technicians is his shop’s greatest strength. Accordingly, he encourages and facilitates that relationship’s development, having techs participate in driver meetings and functions. As a result, techs and drivers work together to address issues with each vehicle as they arise.

Working together is also an important component for the technicians during the repair process. “Very often, they will bring in a working vehicle with the same system [as the one being repaired] and put them side by side to compare and troubleshoot problems,” says Prigge.

All of the company’s technicians have gone through either a two- or four-year mechanic program at various technical colleges in the state, Prigge says. In addition, most have attended several clinics and seminars held by school bus and motorcoach manufacturers. Combined, Discovery technicians have over 135 years of experience.

The shop sticks to a 2,000-mile inspection program as part of its preventative maintenance, and whenever a vehicle comes into the shop for repairs, the bus tech gives the vehicle the same thorough inspection.

Fleet Facts
Fleet composition: 60 school buses, 70 total vehicles
Total shop staff: 5
Number of bus bays: 11
Annual mileage: 650,000
Students transported: 3,200
Schools served: 34

 



Gary Walk, fleet manager at DCSD, says that he is “very proud of the people I work with for doing an outstanding job each day.”

 

Accomplished crew keeps improving

Douglas County School District
Castle Rock, Colo.

The maintenance team at Douglas County School District (DCSD) has its area of service covered. Its members are stationed in three terminals across the county, and they have more than 300 years of experience in professional vehicle maintenance.

Fleet Manager Gary Walk says that the district’s technicians are among the best in the state. “Their knowledge is exhibited on a daily basis looking at the condition of our fleet,” he says.

The fleet consists of a variety of bus types, from 84-passenger transits to 14-passenger multi-function buses. Over the past few years, DCSD has purchased the largest quantity (23) of Thomas Built Buses’ C2 in Colorado. Walk says that his operation receives outstanding support from Jon Shaw at Transwest Trucks, the state’s Thomas Built dealer.

DCSD’s preventive maintenance program includes brake adjustment inspections and grease at 4,000 miles, 41-point inspections at 8,000 miles and annual 108-point inspections.

The technicians receive ongoing training in such advanced topics as multiplex wiring and computer-controlled engines. They are required to carry and maintain School Bus Inspectors Certificates issued by the Colorado Department of Education, and many of them have Master ASE certification as well.

Walk was named Fleet Manager of the Year for the 2005-06 school year by the Colorado State Pupil Transportation Association. In a recommendation letter for the award, DCSD Director of Transportation Paul Balon wrote, “What [Walk] does for the district shows up in many ways, from fuel savings, inventory structure of quality and costing, and working with his mechanics to make sure they have the skills to continue being the very best.”

Fleet Facts
Fleet composition: 277 buses, 427 total vehicles
Total shop staff: 22
Number of bus bays: 16
Annual mileage: 4,000,000
Students transported: 13,412
Schools served: 67

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