Maintenance

Preventive Maintenance Checklists: Key to Thorough School Bus Repairs

Brad Barker
Posted on June 15, 2018

Performing inspections of each item in a preventive maintenance (PM) checklist is more than just looking at components. I always tell people to pay attention to the little things, the little problems, making repairs to the smallest of defects.

In doing so, the larger potential problems will be repaired and never develop into real problems. Many technicians find this hard to do. They focus on the problem at hand, fixing items that have failed, but they fail in the process to repair the cause of the failure. This causes repeat problems.

Technicians will then blame the part as being defective or of poor quality. Each problem has a cause. Finding and repairing the cause prevents future problems from occurring.

I have had technicians ask me, “Why do you take so long to make a repair?” The answer is that I make the repair the correct way. What they do not realize is that the school buses I work on rarely come back for repeat problems. The buses they work on sometimes never leave the yard before they break down again.

When you take your personal car to a repair shop, you expect the repair to be complete. You definitely do not want to have to take it back because the problem was not solved the first time. Doing it right the first time increases reliability and — most importantly — safety.

Your drivers will appreciate a job done well even if it takes a little longer. They will appreciate not having to drive an old spare bus repeatedly.

I routinely have drivers request that I work on their bus over someone else. I receive many a “thank you” from drivers for doing a job well. The reason is that I am consistent on every bus. I follow the same steps on every job. I pay attention to detail and follow the same routine. I do not cut corners to save a few minutes.

I never work on a school bus for any reason without checking the lights before I am done. I make a thorough inspection of each bus regardless of the repair or problem that is being repaired. I try to find something wrong. It almost becomes a game, and it is fun. Technicians often ask me, “How come you get all the fun jobs?” I tell them, “Every job is fun!”

Brad Barker is a veteran shop manager and technician.
Brad Barker is a veteran shop manager and technician.

My PM checklist is organized in a systematic method that is meant to be followed in order from top to bottom. In doing so, an organized routine will be developed and remembered, and the technician will get better and faster at it as time goes by.

When I teach classes on preventive maintenance, I teach the “Circle Inspection Method.” This simply means that the entire inspection process is performed in a circular fashion. If I am inside the bus, I walk down the aisle inspecting from left to right, bottom to top, in a circular motion as I walk to the back of the bus. I grab, feel, open, close, and inspect every item, every screw, every seat, window, door, radio speaker, light, etc.

When on the outside of the bus, I do the same thing. I stand in one area, beginning at the front right corner, and inspect every item within my reach without taking a step. I then take a step to the left and repeat the same process.

My PM sheet includes A, B, and C checklists. PM A should take no longer than two hours. If performing a PM B in conjunction, one hour should be added. A PM C may take anywhere from one to three days, depending on problems found. Rules to remember:

1.    Never make any repairs until the PM inspection is complete. Doing so slows down the process.
2.    Mark the checklist with the appropriate notation, then go back and make repairs after the inspection is done.
3.    All safety-related defects must be repaired before the bus goes back on the road. Non-safety-related defects can be rescheduled or assigned to another tech.

My PM checklist is available for free download on the School Bus Fleet website at schoolbusfleet.com/PMchecklist

Brad Barker has more than 35 years of experience in school bus maintenance as a shop manager and technician. He has written numerous articles for SBF. He can be reached at [email protected].  

Related Topics: preventive maintenance

Comments ( 3 )
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  • Richard Skibitski

     | about 6 months ago

    My first reaction was; wow, you must have known some pretty poor and poorly trained mechanics. But you highlight some very common and serious issues in the industry at large; poorly trained techs, often underpaid, overworked and under constant pressure to "get it out the door". No, you can't tie it up, it has to roll at 2, or we don't have any spares, or the dispatch office doesn't want to listen to the driver cry about not having "their" bus or not wanting to drive some crappy spare bus. Couple those conditions with strapped budgets, school boards and administrations that have no understanding whatsoever about what happens, or needs to happen in the garage, and that constant training is an absolute necessity (and costs money). So when I first read the article, and reacted, I realized that my initial reaction was wrong, and you are shining a light on a much larger, more pervasive problem. There is a focus on driver training, but where is the focus on training the techs that are charged with keeping the fleet rolling?

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