Investing in a school bus washing system can be a stressful task, but with a little background knowledge of the systems available, solutions are certain to emerge.
There are drive-through rollover systems, which clean massive fleets in record times, and there are also economical hand-operated washing systems for tighter budgets. But with each type of system, the manufacturers are dedicated to serving the customers’ needs and making sure that school buses stay clean and bright throughout the year.
Take, for example, Nye County (Nev.) School District’s transportation director, Cameron McRae. Five years ago, McRae needed to invest in a washer system for his fleet of 75 buses. The conventional practice of hand washing had outworn its practicality in the district, and they also had just recently managed to allocate a sizable sum of money from a tight budget to address this issue specifically.
“We were washing our buses with a bucket of water, a steam-cleaner and a brush on a stick,” McRae says, “and it would take at least an hour to do one bus.”
Finding what fits
So the district did some research and found a possible solution from ACC International Inc. in Beamsville, Ontario. ACC’s Eco-Power Brush is a large, upright, spinning brush that’s operated by a single person who maneuvers it around the front, back and sides of a bus. It provides a rather simple solution for those daunted by the task of a hand washing, and it comes reasonably priced at about $18,000.
The Eco-Power Brush requires only a 220-volt power source, a water supply and a hard, flat surface for operation. And ACC offers to personally install an overhead rigging to keep the cords out of the way during use. McRae liked what he saw, so he decided to give it a try.
The first step was to put in a call to ACC to give them an idea of the type of operation Nye County was running — fleet size, washing requirements, budget, etc.
As James M. Stieva, a senior executive of ACC, says, “What’s nice with our product is that we try to really work with the customer, examine their facility and see exactly what they’re doing, their equipment, their wash area and everything else. We don’t really have a one-solution-fits-all type product. We are basically custom building the machines to fit their facility, and there is no additional price.”
Once the particulars have been worked out, ACC delivers the product, installs the rigging if it has been requested and then tutors the customer on how to operate the machine — all of this done in usually less than a day.
McRae says that the results for his operation have been incredible. They can now wash and dry a bus in about 10 to 15 minutes, and they are able to wash their buses more often.
“The fleet is a lot cleaner today than it was five years ago,” McRae says, “and I have been more than pleasantly pleased with the Power Brush’s performance.”
Cutting maintenance costs
Regular washing improves the maintenance of buses, Stieva says, and many customers who have used the Eco-Power Brush for 10 to 15 years have found that “the savings alone in paint and bodywork more than make up for the price of the machine.”
McRae says that his operation’s machine has been maintenance-free since they got it. They haven’t even had to replace or rotate the brush segments yet. McRae says that he is very happy with the Power Brush overall.
“With the size and number of buses that we do,” McRae says, “it’s been a perfect fit for our district, and it has far exceeded my original expectations.”
Roll over, wash system
Westmatic Corp. offers a different type of washing system that can be advantageous for school bus operators with larger fleets. The company manufactures a wide range of heavy-vehicle wash systems, and it recently released a system that is specifically designed for school buses: the Westmatic Multi-Wash System.
The unit is a three-brush rollover, which means that the bus is parked in a wash gantry where three high-density brushes, accompanied by wash sprays, sweep and pass over every portion of the bus. The result is a spotlessly clean vehicle.
One of the unique features of the Multi-Wash System is its mirror protection program. The system uses special electronic sensors to navigate the brushes safely around buses’ protruding mirrors. This prevents mirrors from becoming damaged, which has been a big problem with these types of washing systems in the past.
Wash time with this system is four to six minutes, depending on the size of the bus, and it has a water recycling feature that saves approximately 85 percent of the water in each use.
Service on call
Robert Sundell, president of Westmatic’s Michigan-based North American Division, says that though the Multi-Wash System is essentially maintenance-free — built with special care to avoid wear-and-tear breakdowns — customer service is a priority.
“We at Westmatic believe strongly that it is extremely important to have a 24/7 service and technical support hotline that customers can call at any time,” Sundell says.
There are spare parts readily available, and the company pledges to ship overnight to make sure the systems are operational as soon as possible.
A customized wash
The Multi-Wash has many optional accessories to further enhance the cleaning process, such as the chassis wash, which uses high-powered sprays to clean underneath the bus, and the touchless high-pressure frame, which adds a high-pressured rinse in support of the brushes to produce an immaculate bus. The optional accessories can cater to the demands of different climates.
“Up here in Michigan during the wintertime, we have a lot of ice and salt [on the roads], and maybe sometimes you would like to have both the high pressure and the friction in the same wash,” Sundell says. Other areas that don’t have such severe climates may prefer to simply rinse their fleet in between scheduled washes.
No matter whether you’re a small school bus fleet that wants to move up from handwashing or a bigger fleet that can afford an automated rollover, there is a wash system out there to help you keep your buses as clean as possible.