The following article was submitted by Mark Cegelski, transportation director at Cleveland Municipal School District.
In this day of hybrids, the Cleveland Municipal School District transportation department has come up with one (or three) of a kind.
As with every other system in the country, we are constantly on the alert to save costs, and, as with most other systems in the snow belt, a major seasonal cost is that of plowing the white stuff off the depot lots so yellow buses can pick up the children on time.
In the midst of a summer maintenance labor-management meeting in August 2005, the question “Why can’t we use our own vehicles for snowplowing?” was posed. (We have one lightweight tow truck for the transportation division.)
That one question led to a brain-storming session, posing some questions to equipment manufacturers and persuading one of them to install snowplows on the front and commercial salt spreaders on the back of three otherwise-retired buses, at a cost of less than $7,000 per bus. Our bill for snow plowing in the 2004-05 school year exceeded $40,000 — at the lowest bid of $1,000 per push and $375 per salting.
Although the winter was mild this past year, the cost of the snowplows and installation will be recouped by the end of the snow season in 2007. The warranty on the plows and salt spreaders is five years. Our maintenance staff has reported absolutely no problems with the equipment or with the few extra hours of overtime available following a snowfall.
These hybrids have allowed us to get the bulk of the snow off and salt on the lots before the drivers arrive and then plow out the drifts and mounds that remain when the buses depart for morning pickups. Salting can be done as needed throughout the maintenance shifts, from 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., at no additional labor costs.
The salt is stored inside the buses for ease of filling the spreaders and for added weight. We have a win-win-win situation: cost cutting, labor-management cooperation and collaboration, and snow- and ice-free lots.
Additionally, the buses used are not roadworthy for transporting students. At an auction, most would have brought in about $300 to $400 each in junk value.
Through a couple of big snowfalls during January 2007, the buses performed flawlessly. Storing the salt in the back is great for traction.
Doors were added to the side of the bus for easy loading of salt. The back door was cut in half, like a barn door, so that salt could be loaded into the spreader easily.