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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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’Poway-ful’ inspection results

Poway Unified School District — Poway, Calif.

With a fleet that’s growing — and a shop staff that’s not — the maintenance program at Poway Unified School District has managed to keep its customer satisfaction levels high, combining high operational efficiency with a top-notch training system.

Transportation Director Tim Purvis says the department receives plenty of recognition from external customers and inquiries from other school districts “because of our success with the vehicle inspections.”

What Purvis is referring to is the department’s impressive results in the quarterly bus inspections conducted by the California Highway Patrol. During these inspections, about a quarter of the district’s buses, from 35 to 37, are scrutinized for defects, both minor and major. Over the past 14 years, inspectors have found zero defects 27 times. The other “non-perfect” inspections generally turn up only one or two minor defects. Inspectors have found no out-of-service defects.

Phil Medved, the district’s vehicle maintenance supervisor, credits the shop’s determination to “do things right” for the impressive inspection results, which are well above the average in California.

Medved says his staff of 12, which includes a coordinator, four technicians, three mechanics, two service workers and two attendants, ensures that jobs are done properly. “At no time do they try to bandage anything,” he says. “Either it’s fixed right or it goes out of service.”

Building rapport with the district’s bus drivers is also important. To ensure that they know that a bus with a service request has actually been checked and, if necessary, repaired, the maintenance staff leaves what’s called a “steering wheel hanger” to alert the driver. “It’s a good communication tool,” Medved says. “When they see the hanger tag, they know that we’ve looked at the problem. If they see the problem again, they can bring the hanger tag back to us.”

Fleet Facts

  • Fleet composition: 152 buses, 110 other vehicles
  • Total shop staff: 12
  • Number of bus bays: 5
  • Annual mileage: 2 million
  • Students transported: 7,028
  • Schools served: 36



    Vo-tech schools help build program

    Rohrer Bus Service — Duncannon, Pa.

    Rohrer Bus Service got started more than 75 years ago with a horse-drawn wagon hauling children to and from school. Today, the operation has 630 vehicles, including 405 school buses.

    Rohrer was recently honored as a Platinum Contractor by the Pennsylvania School Bus Association for its continuous service as a family operation and as one of the oldest school bus contractors in Pennsylvania, if not the nation.

    Ed Allandar, vice president of maintenance, has been with Rohrer for more than 30 years and counts the company’s connection with local learning institutions as one of its greatest strengths.

    “Many of our technicians come to Rohrer through cooperative work agreements from area vocational/technical schools,” he says. Allandar himself was the first co-op student hired by Rohrer.

    Rohrer constantly evaluates its daily operations to monitor costs. An anti-idling program limits idling to five minutes. The vehicle specification program, which the company considers its greatest money saver, strives to reduce total life-cycle operating costs. To reduce maintenance costs, specifications include Thomas/Freightliner school buses equipped with Mercedes engines, rear air suspension and LED lighting.

    “The Mercedes engines have also allowed us to extend our oil-drain intervals, further reducing costs for labor and supplies,” Allandar says.

    Driver and technician training programs play a large part in increasing efficiency and reducing operating costs. Techs receive a minimum of three trainings each year, one at a factory training facility and two in-house. ASE certification is not required at Rohrer but is greatly encouraged.

    Preventive maintenance schedules begin with a comprehensive inspection at the 5,000-mile/60-day service level and continue with 10,000-mile/120-day, 25,000-, 50,000- and 100,000-mile services. Oil analysis and coolant test are performed at each “B” service (10,000 miles), and road service technicians provide basic weekly checks.

    Fleet Facts

  • Fleet composition: 405 buses, 630 total vehicles
  • Total shop staff: 15
  • Number of bus bays: 18
  • Annual mileage: 7,890,000
  • Students transported: 31,304
  • Schools served: 17 districts


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