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November 20, 2012  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Aging fleets: How do we compete for resources?

If the fleet gets past a certain age, we can count on higher maintenance costs, reduced dependability, driver frustration, the need for more mechanics and maybe not meeting our school customers’ expectations.

by Michael Shields

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Further factors
Here are other key factors to look at:

• The annual costs of maintaining your buses
• The optimum age to avoid major maintenance
• The financial and purchasing philosophy that your district follows (e.g., lowest purchase cost, life cycle cost purchasing, paying cash, lease purchase, focus on the environment by going green, etc.)
• If lease purchasing a bus, what the length of repayment period is (five, seven or 10 years, for example) and whether it aligns with the state’s length of bus retention
• The amounts of monies that are available in your district for capital acquisitions
• The historical purchase patterns for when buses have been replaced
• The oldest bus(es) in the fleet

If, for example, you were to replace buses every 10 years, how many buses would you purchase each year to maintain a 10-year life? In a 100-bus fleet, you would replace 10 buses each year.

If state rules allow you to keep the bus 12 or 15 years, then you may wish to adjust your plan, based on miles traveled, condition of the bus and monies available, to a longer replacement cycle. A 100-bus fleet with a 12-year replacement cycle would be about eight buses replaced per year.

If your replacement is based on number of miles, then you will need to compute the expected miles traveled based on your history by the type of bus. As examples, Type D buses might be replaced at 200,000 miles, while Type A buses might be replaced at 120,000 miles.

Once you have answered some of these questions, get the information into a spreadsheet that will list the financial information, number of buses in the fleet (number of route buses plus 10% for maintenance), and number of buses you need and/or wish to replace each year.

Remain hopeful and plan ahead. Remember: “Success is when opportunity and preparedness meet.” You can be prepared.

Michael Shields is director of transportation at Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Salem, Ore. He is also a member of SBF’s editorial advisory board. He can be reached at [email protected].

To download an example of a school bus replacement plan, go here.

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