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June 07, 2011  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Getting Lean, Clean and Green

As school districts face growing budgetary concerns, fleet operators are cutting costs by using green technology and implementing eco-friendly policies.

by Brittany-Marie Swanson

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Implementing green policies can help
Clay Community Schools enforces a 15-minute maximum on bus idling, according to Misner. Policies like this can help reduce emissions and fuel-related expenditures.

“In the state of Florida, we’re mandated to have an antiidling policy,” says Connors, whose department instructs drivers to turn off their engines when they arrive at school, and leave them off until they are ready to depart. “We ask for support from school staff members to help us enforce it, and it’s been very effective.”

Drivers who operate buses for students with special needs — such as buses with wheelchair lifts — are exempt from this policy.

“Another exception is if they’re dealing with exceptional education students that have environmental issues,” Connors continues. “In other words, they have to have a cool, air-conditioned bus. That bus would be allowed to idle. But we allow them no more than five minutes’ warm-up time in the morning when they do their pre-trip inspection.”

While Napa Valley does not enforce any “green” policies, drivers for the district take the initiative to go green anyway.

“Our drivers who are driving the natural gas buses compete to see who’s getting the best miles per gallon,” Knight says. “I think that the competition to be greener will move to the office staff once we see solar power coming into the office and things of that sort.”

Napa plans to go solar
Knight’s department is looking to use solar panels to help run its office and buses.

“We’re going to look really hard into solar charging … and we’re going to test it on our plug-in hybrid bus,” he says. “We think that with the solar charging we can keep [the hybrid bus] off the grid entirely during the day.”

The department also recently demolished its outdated facility that was built in the 1930s. Now, transportation personnel work out of a portable classroom.

Since moving into the portable classroom “our heat and cooling efficiency has improved 300 percent,” Knight says.

“We’re also going to put some solar panels onto our office. We think it’s a two-phase thing,” he adds. “We want to build a solar panel big enough that it will take care of the hybrid bus charging during the day, plus also take care of what we’re using during the day in our office.”

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