Upgrading of equipment is top priority in bus shop

Frank Di Giacomo, Publisher
Posted on April 1, 2001

What would you do if your employer unexpectedly gave you a 10 percent raise? Put a down payment on a new car? Fix that leaky roof? Start a college fund for your 3-year-old daughter? Take a quick trip to Vegas? True, 10 percent of what’s already not enough doesn’t go far, but how you would spend that additional money says a lot about your needs, desires and temperament.

The 10 percent solution
In our third annual maintenance survey, “Typical Mechanic Earns More Than $31,000, While Garage Managers Average $38,000” (April/May 2001), we asked shop managers what they would do if their budgets were increased by 10 percent. What we discovered was quite interesting. If given a 10 percent budget hike, a relatively small percentage of maintenance managers would choose to boost staff salaries. The actual number was 5.4 percent, about one out of 20. A higher percentage, 11.1, said they would hire more mechanics. A far greater percentage, 53.3 percent, said they would upgrade their shop equipment or their maintenance facility. Equipment, it seems, is higher on the wish list than staffing. So, what does all this tell us? First, that mechanics and garage managers are relatively well paid. According to our survey, the average annual salary for a mechanic is $31,188. For a garage manager, it’s $38,000. Second, that the vast majority of school bus operations, both public and private, are adequately staffed in the garage. This is in sharp contrast to the drivers corps. Lastly, that the tools of the trade are themselves in need of repair. Although there’s no doubt that school bus maintenance programs are generally doing an excellent job, we have to ask ourselves if they couldn’t be even more efficient if they had better tools, shop equipment and garage facilities. We need to ensure that bus mechanics have the proper equipment -- whether it’s vehicle lifts, maintenance software, computerized diagnostic tools or even new wrenches -- to efficiently maintain the approximately 450,000 school buses that travel the highways each school day. With the ongoing driver shortage and the pressure it has placed on transportation programs across the country, it’s easy to overlook the people who maintain the vehicles that ferry the children to and from school and activity trips. But these people are critical to the success of a bus operation -- just ask any bus driver who has been stranded along his route because of a mechanical breakdown.

SBF recognized – again

We take a lot of pride in the quality of this publication, and I think it shows Ñ both to people in the industry and on the outside, too. For the sixth year in the past seven, SBF has been named a finalist in the Best Magazine category of the Maggie Awards, a competition sponsored by the Western Publications Association. There are literally dozens of magazines vying in the same category, making our consistent presence in the finals so remarkable. Equally impressive, Senior Editor Sandra Matke’s feature story, “Sudden Death in Murray County,” which was published in the June/July 2000 issue, has been selected as a finalist in the Best Feature Story category. Sandra deserves special praise for this accomplishment, which was the product of outstanding on-the-scene reporting of the tragic train-bus crash in Tennga, Ga., on March 28, 2000. Sandra flew to the scene within 24 hours of the accident and gathered the critical details about the crash and its aftermath that made her article so extraordinary and worthy of recognition. To give credit where credit is due, I’d like to congratulate the fine editorial staff at SBF.

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