Alternative Fuels

Pioneering school district honored for converting fleet to biodiesel

Posted on October 1, 2003

LITTLETON, Colo. — Jerry Ryan, transportation services manager at Littleton Public Schools (LPS), made a big decision in 1996 after attending a clean air conference in Denver. Ryan figured that it was time he did something to reduce the number of harmful pollutants emanating from the LPS school bus fleet. After extensive research and a lot of time spent persuading the district that it was the right thing to do, Ryan effectively converted the entire LPS fleet of 76 school buses to run on a low-emitting soybean oil-biodiesel mix. The conversion has been so successful that the Environmental Protection Agency awarded the school district the 2003 Environmental Achievement Award.

"The idea of using it had always piqued my interest," said Ryan of the fuel combination, which has substantially reduced the emissions rate of particulate matter, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide in the LPS fleet. "All the characteristics [of biodiesel] were positive except for the cost."

Ryan said that, initially, a conversion to the new fuel system would add an extra $16,000 a year to the district fuel budget. To justify the cost, he performed an oil analysis on the biodiesel mix and discovered that once the fleet was converted, it would allow the oil change intervals to be stretched an extra 1,000 miles. The interval adjustment resulted in an annual savings of $19,000, giving the district a $3,000 surplus after the fuel conversion. Taking these savings into consideration, along with a well-timed national research study and a plea for the health of LPS students, Ryan was able to convince the school district that the conversion was a smart move.

Since the change was implemented nearly two years ago, Ryan said it has been smooth sailing. There have been very few overall problems, and absolutely no supplemental training was required to acclimate the maintenance and transportation staffs to the use of the fuel. The fuel can get a little thick in cold weather, said Ryan, but overall the infrastructure is excellent. Of course, that isn’t to say there weren’t some moments of trepidation.

"At first, it was a heck of a decision and a sort of 'hang your career out there' move," he said. "I had a few sleepless nights, but we waited for the right opportunity and just ran with it."


New products highlight 2004 PTSI catalog

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Pupil Transportation Safety Institute (PTSI) recently distributed its 2004 Resource Catalog to more than 22,000 professionals in the school bus industry.

This year’s edition features 24 new products for students, drivers and managers. IC Corp. in Conway, Ark., again sponsored the printing and distribution of the book.

Some of the new products include "Pooh's Great School Bus Adventure" (student training video from Disney), "Someone Who Made a Difference" (driver training video from PTSI), "The 1001 Rewards and Recognition Fieldbook" (resource book from Workman Publishing) and "School Bus Extrication" (driver training video from PennWell).

If you would like a free catalog in the mail, contact PTSI at (800) 836-2210 or e-mail [email protected]. All products are available through PTSI's online store at


School bus tribute to American troops

PARACHUTE, Colo. — When Garfield County School District No. 16 bus driver Karamia Clark hung a small picture of her husband, Army Corporal James A. Clark, on her bus, she had no idea what the response from the students who ride the bus would be.

That response turned into an outpouring of patriotism and support. Students soon began bringing in their own mementos to display. Along with that one small photo of her husband, Clark hung on the bus ceiling an American flag that had flown in her yard for seven years.

"Kids immediately began asking about who that was in the picture. Pretty soon I had kids telling me about their brother, uncle or cousin who was serving in the military overseas. They all wanted to know if they could bring in a photo and help decorate the bus," said Clark.

Clark was so inundated with flags, hand drawn messages and pictures that she decided to take a Saturday morning to allow students to help decorate the bus. Around 20 students showed up that morning, and soon the bus went from yellow to red, white and blue. With so many flags and messages, Clark had to take some home to post in her windows.

"I had no idea it would turn into this when I placed one photo and one flag on the bus," said a beaming Clark. "I'm very proud of what the kids have done, they are just awesome. They were so into this that some of them even went back home and got cleaning supplies to wash the windows and wipe down the seats. They wanted it to be perfect." Clark noted that the majority of students on hand to help were from Bea Underwood Elementary.

When students on route 2 boarded the bus the next Monday morning, they were amazed at what their peers had accomplished. "The elementary students just thought it was awesome. Even the high school kids were in amazement. It was fun to watch them all as they stared at the ceiling looking at all the artwork," said Clark.

Clark's mother-in-law, Ida Fienberg, was in town visiting her grand kids when she saw the bus. Fienberg cried when she saw what the kids had accomplished.

Cpl. Clark, a reservist, had been out of the Army for five years when he signed up for the reserves after Sept. 11, 2001. He is currently serving with the engineering corps in Kuwait.

The route 2 bus became a focal point for the district 16 bus fleet as other route buses began their own patriotic campaigns. District 16 Transportation Director Linda Cannizzaro said at first other students weren’t as eager to decorate their buses. "Once word got out and the kids saw what the students on route 2 had done they all wanted to do something to show their support."

Cannizzaro noted that all of the bus drivers have made sure that the safety of their passengers is not compromised. All decorations must be well out of the driver’s area and securely hung from the ceiling, leaving all windows clear.



Legislation calls for drivers to undergo diabetes training

RALEIGH, N.C. — Public school personnel, including school bus drivers, throughout North Carolina are now required to be trained to address the needs of school children with diabetes. Senate Bill 911, the "Care for School Children with Diabetes Act," was passed last year by state lawmakers and sets forth guidelines based on those of the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

"In North Carolina, each local education agency takes individual accountability for the implementation of these state guidelines," said Paula Hudson Collins, senior advisor for Healthy Schools, N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

With the cooperation of several state partners, six cities (Asheville, Durham, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Winston-Salem and Greenville) were designated for daylong training sessions earlier this year. Following the ADA recommendations, the instruction involved how to properly spot high and low blood sugar symptoms, procedures during emergencies, a general overview of diabetes and discussion of the implementation of the law. The guidelines also suggested that children have access to their medications and be allowed to snack and monitor their blood sugar on school buses and in other school facilities, as indicated in the student’s care plan.

A "train the trainer" model was utilized to reach all the local education agencies, students, parents and employees. "Two representatives attended from each school system and one from each charter school system," Collins said. "They attended the sessions and learned how to train the rest of the personnel at their respective school systems."

Because existing funds were not enough to cover costs of the training, DPI sought help in the medical community. The Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina stepped in and funded $75,000.



Thomas Built has busy month

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Thomas Built Buses has completed delivery of 53 Type D Saf-T-Liner HDX buses and 15 Type C Conventional buses to Cobb County School District in Marietta, Ga. Another 32 Saf-T-Liners have been ordered, and Cobb County intends to purchase more in the near future to meet replacement demands. Approximately half of the school district’s nearly 1,100 school buses were made by Thomas.

Meanwhile, Putnam City Schools in Bethany, Okla., has purchased 19 Conventional school buses from Thomas, including six wheelchair lift-equipped buses. Putnam City operates a fleet of 112 buses with about 75 percent of the fleet manufactured by Thomas.

Capping off a busy month, Thomas has also added a new dealer to its distribution network. Matheny Motor Truck Company in Parkersburg, W.V., will now offer a full line of Thomas products and services.

"Partnering with Thomas presents a better growth opportunity to meet our company's goals," said Mike Matheny, CEO of Matheny Motors.


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