ARDMORE, Pa. — After several decades in the pupil transportation industry, Jerry Rineer didn’t expect to become a “go-to guy” for colleagues across the country who are interested in alternative fuels.
But operating 61 school buses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) — which makes up nearly half of Lower Merion School District’s fleet of 117 buses — has given Rineer considerable experience and insight that he enthusiastically shares with anyone who asks.
“Lower Merion is known as a national leader in the use of CNG buses, and I get daily calls from fleet managers, university researchers and even hosted federal agency employees who were studying CNG vehicle safety,” Rineer said.
PHOTO GALLERY: To view a variety of photos of Rineer, his staff and family, and a recent trip to India, go here.
Now, with more than 40 years in school transportation, Rineer will retire from his position as Lower Merion’s supervisor of transportation at the end of December.
Rineer’s yellow bus career began in 1973, when he was hired at Romano’s School Bus Service in Pennsylvania. During his time with the contractor, he worked as a driver, a mechanic’s helper, a dispatcher and a manager for the company’s Philadelphia location.
Rineer also recruited his father, Earl Rineer, to become a school bus driver for Romano’s. Earl Rineer, a World War II veteran, soon started training new drivers, and he continues to work in that role for Sague Bus Service, also in Pennsylvania.
In 1984, Jerry Rineer joined the School District of Philadelphia as a route coordinator for the office of desegregation. Over the years, he rose through the ranks and eventually became general manager of transportation, overseeing the operation of 700 district school buses, 450 support vehicles, 700 contracted bus routes and the distribution of public transit passes to 58,000 students.
Rineer’s experience with cleaning up school bus emissions began at the School District of Philadelphia. The district received grants to transition to ultra-low-sulfur diesel and to retrofit 250 buses with clean-burning technology.
It was when he joined Lower Merion School District in 2011 that Rineer started to move into the forefront of alternative fuels in pupil transportation. Working with Philadelphia Clean Cities and a grant consultant, the district has received annual grants to purchase CNG-powered vehicles.
Rineer has given presentations in web seminars and in person to explain the operational and environmental benefits of using CNG in transportation.
A couple of years ago, public television program MotorWeek did a segment highlighting Lower Merion’s CNG buses. The district has also won awards for its green fleet initiatives.
Rineer said that his ties to pupil transportation and clean fuels won’t end with his retirement.
“I have met the most amazing people dedicated to the safe transport of our most precious cargo. ... [I] hope to stay connected to a career that I love and have been dedicated to for all these years,” Rineer said, adding, “I look forward to being involved in clean fuel fleet efforts in the future, because I really believe in the benefits to our country from using domestic fuels.”
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