ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — The transportation department at Rocky River City School District recently won two notable awards: a clean diesel grant and a statewide school bus mechanic honor.
The department recently received a diesel emissions reduction grant for $110,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Erin Peacock, Rocky River's transportation supervisor, and Sam Gifford, executive director of human resources and support services, applied for the grant a few months ago.
The funding is the biggest competitive grant that the district has ever been awarded. It will go toward replacing two 2002 school buses with new models.
Also, engine preheaters will be installed in all of Rocky River’s 24 school buses. The units will circulate coolant through the engines and turn on heaters inside the buses to warm them up, cutting down on idling and eliminating the need to plug in the engines overnight during colder months.
"These little guys, standing out in the snow in the mornings, we want them to get into a warm bus," Peacock said, referring to young student riders. "They still will, but it will cost the district much, much less."
Gifford said that the district's goals were the same as the EPA’s: "to replace these high-polluting engines and ensure absolute reliability. There are far more problems in trying to retrofit a new engine into an old bus [than replacing the bus entirely], and one of our major goals here is … to make sure our students are on reliable buses at all times."
Last year, Rocky River received a $20,000 grant from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. The purpose? To replace every school bus driver's seat with a new, more ergonomically correct seat.
"If the seats aren't comfortable and don't absorb shock from the road, it leads to health issues,” Gifford said. “It's a good preventative measure." In other news from the Rocky River transportation department, Head Mechanic Eric Rath was recently named the 2016 David E. Drum School Bus Mechanic of the Year by the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation. The award recognizes mechanics for such efforts as cost-saving measures, relationships with school bus drivers and fellow employees, high shop standards, and preventive maintenance programs.
Among other accomplishments, Rath and his fellow mechanic, Doug Hinz, saved the district nearly $50,000 last year by completing repairs in-house that had previously been done by outside mechanics.
Also, this year Rocky River’s school buses passed the annual Ohio State Highway Patrol inspection with a 100% score the first time through.