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March 12, 2010  |   Comments (1)   |   Post a comment

Top Shops 2010

This year for our annual series, we've profiled five maintenance programs at school district and contractor fleets around the country that have led them to excel on state inspections. They have also helped to reduce the operations' costs and enhance safety.

by SBF Staff


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ASE-certified technicians Joe Galbraith (left) and Rob Butler work well together. They have led Croswell-Lexington Community Schools’ fleet to receive 100 percent on state inspections for nine years.

Techs’ priorities are preventive maintenance, cost-savings

Croswell-Lexington Community Schools
Croswell, Mich.

Being the only technicians in a three-bay shop that services 31 school buses and five other vehicles for a 168-square mile district, Rob Butler and Joe Galbraith, technicians for Croswell-Lexington Community Schools (CLCS) in Croswell, Mich., run a pretty aggressive preventive maintenance schedule.

To make sure everything is running smoothly, the pair performs a state police inspection on all the vehicles in the fleet. A dry preventive maintenance (PM) is run every 2,000 miles, Butler explains, which includes a grease job, adjusting the brakes and a 170-point state police inspection. Every 4,000 to 6,000 miles, a wet PM is performed on the vehicles, which consists of all the dry PM requirements, plus an oil change. Thanks to this aggressive schedule, Butler and Galbraith have received 100 percent on state inspections for nine of 10 years.

Both technicians are ASE certified, with Butler having four ASE certifications and Galbraith having his ASE master’s in school bus repair. They receive their training through factory seminars.

Drivers are key to keeping the PM program running effectively as well. In fact, some of the drivers are actually family members of the technicians. Because they are so close, there is an open-door policy between the drivers and the technicians, so if there is a problem, Butler and Galbraith can immediately respond before the situation gets worse.

Part of what makes this team so successful is the great lengths they go through to make sure they get their equipment at bargain prices, never forgetting that quality is always the goal. In order to reduce maintenance costs, they joined a group buying program with other technicians in surrounding school districts to purchase equipment for their buses, in which they price-shopped with vendors to determine the best prices so they could receive “the best bang for their buck.”

Butler notes that by purchasing new electronic engines and cutting down on idling time, the operation’s fuel costs have decreased and the buses are now averaging 8.5 miles per gallon.

Additionally, the technicians are self-reliant, never depending on outside vendors to perform any service on their vehicles.

The technicians use a laptop that contains all their engine diagnostics software, Butler explains. “We have three different engines here: International, Caterpillar and Cummins,” he says. “Our laptop with up-to-date engine and transmission software is our main tool.”

The district’s fleet of buses ranges in age from ’99 to ’09 model years. In the interest of “going green,” Galbraith says, they installed 17 catalytic converters in buses in 2008 to reduce emissions thanks to a local grant that circled through four districts in the area.

The duo’s efforts are not lost on Transportation and Operations Director Michael Hinojosa, who came to the district two years ago.

“I inherited them, which was probably the best inheritance I ever had,” he says. “With me being their direct supervisor, I’m not there all the time looking over them, and they’re able to run their shop the way they see fit. They do a great job.”

— ASHLEY WILLIS

Shop Stats

Fleet: 31 school buses, 5 other vehicles
Total shop staff: 2
Number of bus bays: 3
Annual mileage: 360,000
Students transported: 1,400
Schools served: 5

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Read more about: engines, idling reduction, inspections, preventive maintenance, school bus specs, Top Shops, winter

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HI:Just wondering what your drain intervals are? Are you currently using Synthetic Oils? And do you currently Analyze any of your fluids? Thank You, Sammy

SammySamuelson    |    Nov 11, 2010 03:19 PM

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