CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — “Turn it off,” said the note posted on the comment board in Douglas County School District’s bus driver lounge.
No, it wasn’t someone complaining anonymously about the music, the TV or the radio. It was a reminder to the drivers to cut back on idling time.
Douglas County School District’s transportation department was sponsoring a contest between its west, east and north terminals to see which group could turn in the lowest amount of engine idling time. The slogan was “Low Idle — Wins Title.”
The contest lasted four weeks, from mid-April to mid-May. During that time, it was cold and snowy — not unusual for Colorado. In fact, Douglas County received 8 to 12 inches of snow on Mother’s Day.
The terminal with the lowest time (tracked by Zonar technology) would win a catered lunch for all of its personnel from the district’s food services department.
The result: The east terminal won. But the district won even more. Scott Benefield, the interim director of transportation, said that during the contest, the east terminal cut its idling time by 50%, saving the district $6,000 in fuel costs.
The other two terminals came close, so the estimated department-wide savings, for a fleet of about 300 buses, was around $15,000 to $16,000.
Final note: Yes, the food was delicious. Roasted chicken with jalapeño sauce, barbecued pulled pork, corn on the cob, rolls, coleslaw salad, spinach beet salad, apple crisp dessert and lemonade.
John Horton is a veteran school bus driver for Douglas County School District and an occasional contributor to SBF.