Money-saving tips from maintenance managers

Posted on June 1, 2003

In SBF’s 2003 exclusive school bus maintenance survey, shop managers were asked if they had done anything recently to improve performance while lowering maintenance costs. Answers varied widely, but reprinted here are a few of the more descriptive, and potentially insightful, answers given by respondents.


  • We started using higher quality brake lining.


  • Instead of selling old buses, we take the engine, transmissions, glass and other parts off and give the bus shell to a junkyard. We save thousands of dollars in spare parts and still have parts left over that can be sold if not used.


  • We did a better job of keeping the same drivers in the same buses because they get to know the sounds of each bus, helping us identify problems.


  • Locking down on a price based on the future’s market, we bought fuel for a full year, which averages out to almost half of the current price of fuel at pumps on the street.


  • We chartered out field trips that travel more than 100 miles, increasing revenue.


  • We started repairing seat damage instead of replacing seats and seat covers.


  • We started taking advantage of warranty recovery opportunities.


  • We purchased an easier-to-use vehicle lift, which saved us a lot of money.


  • Driver training and education has been improved, and the condition of our buses reflects it.


  • We moved to a larger maintenance facility.


  • We improved our bus to mechanic ratio.


  • We cut idling time on all bus routes, cutting down the wear and tear on vehicles.


  • We set up a centralized purchasing department and streamlined equipment procurement expenses.


  • We converted all manual transmissions to automatic and all standard brakes to air brakes.


  • We started measuring the value of repairs by comparing the cost of repair with bus age and cost.


  • We started giving the technicians more of a say in purchasing decisions because they work more directly with the equipment.


  • We started a fuel additive/treatment program.


  • We improved our maintenance record-keeping.


  • We began tracking overtime hours more carefully.


  • An assistant supervisor was put in the shop to help keep things moving.


  • We resealed rear window glass and water leaks to slow down the onset of body rust.


  • We put stainless steel screens on light mountings to protect them.


  • We improved our radiator and coolant monitoring procedures.


  • We began replacing torque converters instead of the entire transmissions when they quit moving or broke down.


  • We installed road speed governors on all of our engines.


  • Drivers who damage equipment are now reprimanded. If they do so twice, they are terminated.


  • We implemented a bulk purchasing program for maintenance parts.


  • We started an oil analysis program.


  • All of our garage operations are now computerized.


  • We changed our lubricant and grease to a less expensive brand.


  • We began standardizing our entire fleet to improve cost efficiency on parts ordering and repairs.


  • We started talking to our drivers more to have them share concerns with us since they know the buses best.


  • We replaced all of our unproductive mechanics with hard workers.


  • We went to a more aggressive tire maintenance program.


  • We replaced all of our rear-engine buses, which were having trouble with salt and calcium corrosion in extreme weather conditions.


  • We now run retreads on the rear axle to cut down on tire costs.
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