Teamwork is of the utmost importance among the transportation and maintenance staff at the School District of Manatee County. “We believe in communicating our data,” Director of Vehicle Maintenance Don Ross says.
Fuel-efficient buses promise cost savings
All of the buses in the school district’s fleet are diesel-powered, and they are all equipped with video surveillance cameras, seat belts and air conditioning.
Forty-eight of the buses are Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 units with SCR technology. The district is in its second year of running these buses, which replaced older rear-engine (RE) Thomas Built units.
“The C2s came in, and we compared them to our older buses, the REs, which were getting 5 to 5.5 miles per gallon,” Ross says. “When the C2s first hit the road, we were averaging 7 to 7.75 miles per gallon. Now, with some additional driver training and route reconstruction, we have some of the C2s averaging about 10 miles per gallon. Our anticipation of fuel recovery from the new buses is just shy of $250,000.”
More training for drivers
Ross says the C2s come with standards that the team had to take time to understand, and that the drivers had to be trained on.
“On some of our older buses, we had to accelerate 100% in order to get them going,” he explains. “With the new C2s’ quicker acceleration response, the drivers can feather the accelerator rather than push it into the floor. Along with that, there’s an ‘economy’ button that allows the driver to save fuel another way. If the economy button is engaged, that means that they drive normally and it limits the amount of RPMs between shifts.
When the economy button is disengaged, you utilize fuel to get up to the RPMs more quickly. With the faster acceleration response, we found that the C2 allows you to run with the fuel economy button on, therefore saving fuel.”
In another effort to save fuel and reduce costs, last year, the transportation team at Manatee County tracked how many buses the drivers were idling for more than 10 minutes in a given day.
“We had over 250 items that were registered over 10 minutes, so we had training with our drivers, and our goal was to reduce idling by 50%,” Ross says. “That 50% equals about $150,000.”