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December 01, 2005  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Tips and Tactics From the Top 100

Some of the largest school bus fleets in the country share best practices in operations, maintenance, driver training and recruitment, and other areas.

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Detroit Public Schools

Submitted by Dale Goby, executive director of transportation

When using the life-cycle costing approach to purchasing school buses, we recognized that fuel consumption and environmental concerns are two issues that will increase in importance as the vehicles progress in age to their 15-year projected life.

One of the ways we addressed fuel consumption and environmental contamination is to specify the Allison MD3060 transmissions. By doing so and through careful research working with engine, transmission and bus manufacturer engineers, we were able to program the transmission so that the engine shifts gears at lower rpm. This lower shift point reduces fuel consumption, reduces wear on the engine, and reduces pollution from the engine. This activity has resulted in a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption.

Another strategy that we’ve adopted to reduce fuel consumption is a bus idling policy enforced with programmed shutoff.

Engine diagnostic information indicated that the average bus in our fleet was idling an excessive 37 percent of the time. Consequently, we initiated a policy that uses the “black box” program in the Caterpillar engines to automatically shut off the bus engine when it exceeds the idle time limit.

By setting the black box idle limit, we will reduce our fuel consumption and exhaust emission and be a better environmental citizen. (Note: Not all school buses are equipped with the black box, so this technology is not available to all.)


San Diego Unified School District

Submitted by Alexandra Robinson, transportation director

In an effort to make sure the “central office” and the various school board members and community members understand our business, we have developed a Celebrity Rider program.

Here’s how it works. We send out invitations to various “celebrities” — who are, for the most part, officials within the district — and offer them a chance to ride with the “best.”

They are picked up early and then ride along the routes and see what we do. We try to follow up their morning ride with a tour of the department and fleet sections so we can give our “road show” and help them understand what it is we do. This has increased their awareness and certainly helped with morale.


Polk County Schools — Bartow, Fla.

Submitted by Fred Murphy, assistant superintendent for support services

We implemented a recruiting program that lets us target non-high school graduates. The program, called Driving for Education (DFE), allows us to train and hire non-graduates in a temporary capacity.

Once you enter the program, you must enroll in a GED preparatory program at one of our adult education centers.

As a DFE driver, you are assigned a morning and afternoon run. You make your morning run, and then you are allowed to drive your bus to one of our adult education centers, where you participate in a GED program. You then leave in time to make your afternoon bus run.

You are given nine months from the time of hire to complete the GED program. Special consideration is given for those needing an extension of the nine-month time limit. Once you receive your GED, you are permanently assigned to the next available open route in your geographic area. Also, once you pass the GED test, we reimburse you the cost of the test.

We have a graduation ceremony each August for all of the drivers who completed their GED during the previous year. Family members are invited to attend. In the 10 years of the program, we have graduated and hired approximately 50 people. We also have received wonderful local press coverage. Every time an article appears, we receive calls from possible participants.

While you might think that 50 participants is not many for a 10-year investment, we see it as 50 more than we would have gotten, and, more importantly, it’s 50 high school graduates who otherwise would not have gotten their diploma. The program has proven to be a win-win for all concerned. We get qualified drivers, and they get a high school diploma.

As a high school dropout who eventually earned a college degree, I recognize the importance of education and try to impart that all-important message: “It’s never too late to go back to school.”

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