For Wooster City (Ohio) Schools Transportation Supervisor Kurt Miller, the first priority for a diesel bus retrofit was health. The cost saving on his fleet of 35 bio-diesel and clean diesel buses has been a welcome bonus.
Miller has capitalized on Ohio Clean Diesel School Bus Fund grants of $37,610 and $86,611 in recent years to retrofit vehicles with idle reduction equipment, Webasto heaters and diesel oxidation catalysts to lower emissions and cut fuel expenses.
"The biggest thing with the idle reduction equipment was to help the children and my staff so they're not breathing raw fuel fumes, which are proven carcinogenic and trigger asthma. If a young child breathes those fumes, it tears up the linings of their lungs and that's non-repairable," said Miller, who credits his school board and Superintendent Dr. Michael Tefs for backing the initiatives.
Minimizing idle time also reduces upper-side engine-part wear, especially on newer models, which don't receive as much lubricant at lower RPMs.
The district — located in a rural community with "high expectations to always do the best we can with what we've got" — also has a five-minute idle time limit. "Drivers recognize the significance of the savings on fuel costs," Miller said.
The programmable Webasto heaters warm coolant to 180 degrees before bus starts. They also warm interiors and windshields, eliminating the need to scrape ice in harsh winter conditions.
"Our mechanics set the program so the heaters come on based on when each route leaves so it's not running needlessly," Miller said.
The add-on equipment is working so well that Miller will include it in future specifications. He also underscores the importance of tending to the basics: tire pressure, using synthetic fluids to reduce heat and wear and keeping up with brake and engine maintenance. He encourages districts nationwide to seek out similar grants.
With the combined improvements in place less than two years, Miller is still calculating hard savings but he's certain the district is ahead financially and he's "absolutely" a big fan of clean diesel.
"Even if we weren't saving money on fuel, which I know we are, I have a son who has asthma and I know we're helping a lot of kids by doing what we've done," he noted.