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September 02, 2010  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Is Your Fleet Ready for Winter?

The season’s weather can create dangerous driving conditions for employees and slippery bus steps for students, but products are available to help eliminate these hazards. Manufacturers of automatic tire chains, a traction sander and a step heater discuss their features, safety benefits and installation options.

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Photo by Christopher Zeitvogel, DoDEA-Pacific Misawa (Japan) Student Transportation Office

Photo by Christopher Zeitvogel, DoDEA-Pacific Misawa (Japan) Student Transportation Office

Snow and ice can make roads slippery and create a hazard when students board and disembark their buses. With winter not far away, pupil transporters will need equipment on their buses that enables them to continue to safely transport students.

Manufacturers offer several products designed to help ensure the safety of everyone on a school bus during winter weather, from systems that provide increased tire traction to a step heater that melts snow and ice.

Here, the manufacturers provide details on the products’ features, the benefits of utilizing such equipment, and the processes for installation and operation.

Elston Manufacturing Inc.
One system available to pupil transportation officials to improve tire traction on school buses is the Elston Traction Sander. Jeanine Zabel, sales coordinator for the company, says that the sander is rapidly becoming a popular tool to provide additional safety enhancements for school buses, and that the system is mandatory on school buses in many northern states.

The Elston Traction Sander mounts in front of a bus’ drive wheels. It is wired to a switch on the bus’ dashboard, so when the driver flips it on, a carpet of grit drops on the snowy or icy ground to increase traction. This reduces wear and tear on drivetrain components and the tires, and it enables the driver to stop and start driving more quickly.

The Elston Traction Sander mounts in front of a school bus’ drive wheels. With the flip of a switch on the bus’ dashboard, grit drops on the ground to improve traction.

One of the biggest advantages of using a sander over a conventional tire chain system, Zabel says, is that it saves time and is safer for the driver.

“You don’t have your drivers out there chaining the wheels, and you don’t have to stop to put the chains on and take them off,” she explains.

Zabel also notes that it is an economical solution because an end user does not have to replace worn chains.

Moreover, Elston Traction Sanders require little maintenance, and the inside of their tanks is coated with a product that prevents rusting.

Replacement parts may occasionally need to be purchased, but the most maintenance needed is replacing the grit when it runs out. Zabel recommends SafeTSorb by Moltan Co.

“It’s heavy enough that it will hit the ground and stay on the ground. It doesn’t freeze when wet, and it doesn’t get clumpy,” she says.

Elston offers several Traction Sanders for school buses. The S-B 200 is designed for Thomas Built buses. The company also manufactures the Blue Bird Special and Blue Bird Standard, and can custom-build sanders to meet customers’ needs.

Zabel says that the simple, self-explanatory installation process will allow an end user to mount a sander in three to four hours.

Lighthouse International Ltd.

Lighthouse International’s Warm Welcome Step Tread Heaters are installed under a bus’ step tread to immediately melt snow and ice.

Along with improving tire traction in winter weather, maintaining a safe entry and exit area for students, bus drivers and aides as they board and disembark school buses is equally important.


Bill Dyer, president of Lighthouse International Ltd., says that in the past, a duct system that was part of a bus’ defrost system blew hot air onto the steps to melt snow and ice. The company’s Warm Welcome Step Tread Heaters are a more efficient and long-lasting alternative to the duct/blower system.

The heaters are about 1⁄32 of an inch thick and are available in 75 models ranging from 12 to 24 volts. They are installed underneath the tread of a bus’ steps to directly heat the tread.

Some of the models operate on freeze-protection thermostats. When the temperature outside drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the unit will turn on and heat up; once the temperature outside rises to a certain degree, the heater shuts off.

“The positive thing about the heater is that it melts snow off immediately and it will also evaporate the water,” Dyer says, noting that the rate of evaporation depends on the temperature outside.

In addition to increasing safety for everyone riding a bus and reducing liability for school districts and bus companies, Dyer says that utilizing Warm Welcome Step Tread Heaters is a “green” method of removing snow and ice from bus steps because it eliminates the need for chemical de-icers and salts, which can also cause corrosion.

Lighthouse sells its Warm Welcome heaters to all major school bus manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada, and many are installed at the factory level. However, the heaters can also be retrofitted on existing buses.

“Technical help can be accessed through either the manufacturer whose bus the heater is being installed on, or the customer can call us for various installation options,” Dyer says.

Lighthouse also offers Warm Welcome heaters for wheelchair lifts.

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