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April 01, 2006  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

SBF's Top 10 Maintenance Programs for 2006

School bus maintenance workers are often the unsung heroes of transportation departments. In our fifth annual edition of the Top 10, we again recognize the hard work and dedication put forth by America's school bus maintenance staffs.

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Creative cost control is key to success

Biloxi Public Schools — Biloxi, Miss.

Keeping costs down is of major concern to everyone in the transportation department at Biloxi Public Schools. Sam Bailey, transportation director, has put together a great team — each person with his own area of expertise — to ensure maximum efficiency of the fleet.

Richard Davis, the shop’s transportation manager, is currently working on his ASE master certification in school buses and has a background in automotive services. Randy Lane, the department’s operations supervisor and a former mechanic, has a background in maintenance-control analysis. Bailey, a former mechanic as well, has a background in maintenance-control analysis, information technology and personnel management.

The department, which was one of SBF’s Great Fleets Across America in 1999, boasts a 96 percent in-commission rate with its buses.

To keep costs down, the shop engages in what it calls routine price shopping, essentially a validation of whether quality is always necessary for items purchased.

“If we can get the same type of results from a cheaper product that we can from a high quality one, then we’re going to save money,” Bailey says.

Bailey and staff have implemented a no-idle policy, which saved the department almost $46,000 in its first year. Essentially, they weighed the costs of starters versus motors. The team realized that reducing the wear and tear of motors makes it possible to get more life out of them, which, in the long run, produces multiple benefits.

As a result of not running engines as much, the department is able to extend the life of oil and save about three barrels each year. It also reduces its fuel costs, another important consideration.

With regard to preventive maintenance, buses are maintained to ensure a maximum cradle-to-grave cycle. “Each technician uses a stringent inspection checklist,” Bailey says. “The checklist assures that every aspect of the bus is examined, components adjusted as needed and any oil leaks or seepage is attended to.”

Technicians receive on-the-job training, and must be ASE certified within one year of employment.

Fleet Facts

  • Fleet composition: 51 buses, 78 vehicles total
  • Total shop staff: 6
  • Number of bus bays: 3
  • Annual mileage: 700,000
  • Students transported: 3,500
  • Schools served: 10



    Making up for lost techs

    Bixby Public Schools — Bixby, Okla.

    What’s a transportation director to do when his two veteran technicians retire, leaving no full-timers in the shop? If you’re of the same breed as Gabe Hayes of Bixby (Okla.) Public Schools, you lose the tie and do the job yourself.

    In addition to his regular duties as director, Hayes handled maintenance of his operation’s 38 school buses (plus 10 other vehicles) for about three months until he found a successor for the previous mechanics — both of whom had served the district for about 20 years.

    Hayes, himself a 10-year veteran at Bixby, says the going was certainly tough during that period.

    “I spent the majority of my time in the shop working on the buses,” he says. “There were days where we were just trying to get enough of the vehicles fixed to get them out on the road.”

    Fortunately, the department’s two part-time helpers were there to provide what their titles indicate: help. The pair took care of oil changes and other light work, and major jobs like transmission repairs were outsourced.

    And while Hayes was out in the garage, secretary Kelli Reynolds and behavior manager Brian Skinner took up extra duties in the office.

    The Bixby maintenance program brings the buses — most of which are Blue Bird TC2000s or All Americans — into the shop every 5,000 miles for oil and lube service. The mileage mark was recently raised from 4,000 to save money on oil and labor.

    Hayes says that one of his shop’s strengths is the detailed record keeping of all its work, which is key in maintaining accountability.

    “No matter how small the job — even if it’s a light bulb being changed — we keep records,” Hayes says. “It shows a pattern that we’re doing our job and that the buses are well maintained.”

    Dallas Smith, a Bixby bus driver, explains Hayes’ commitment to the program like so: “I’ve seen him change clothes after the morning routes and replace a bad alternator or any other mechanical problem that arises. He can wear slacks and a tie one day and greasy jeans and a T-shirt the next.”

    Fleet Facts

  • Fleet composition: 38 buses, 48 vehicles total
  • Total shop staff: 1 full-time mechanic, 2 part-time helpers
  • Number of bus bays: 3
  • Annual mileage: 450,000
  • Students transported: 1,850
  • Schools served: 5
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