The school bus industry is coming up with solutions to better prepare transportation directors for the new normal of sanitizing their fleets for the upcoming school year, that is if school buses indeed run in certain areas.
According to a School Transportation News survey conducted this month with transportation directors and supervisors, 88 percent of 337 respondents said they are planning on taking extraordinary measures to disinfect school buses in the new school year. As of this writing, many of the respondents said they were waiting for specific sanitization guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but are planning to clean the buses daily, at least.
For instance, 82 percent of 329 respondents said they are considering wiping down the bus seats with disinfectant after every run or route.
While the CDC has not issued specific guidelines for cleaning school buses at this writing, it has presented a flowchart to assist school administrators to make decisions on if they can safely reopen their school buildings to students and employees.
How Do You Properly Clean a School Bus?
School bus manufacturers are offering disinfectant guides on their websites to better explain how to clean school buses without damaging them seats and equipment.
Blue Bird issued a one-page, best-practice resource on disinfecting and cleaning school buses to keep them in the best shape. Recommendations include wiping down surfaces prior to disinfecting them and using ready-to-use (RTU) cleaner that can be applied directly to surfaces.
The company noted that fleet managers should not use pure bleach or pure hydrogen peroxide on vinyl, fabric or plastics. It also advised to not use diluted bleach on fabric like seatbelts or ammonia-based products on plastic, vinyl or touchscreen monitors.
Thomas Built Buses released school bus cleaning instructions for CVOID-19 in March. These guidelines cover general cleaning and disinfecting. The company also recommended products for cleaning seating surfaces and metals.
IC Bus also provides detailed cleaning information on chemicals that are safe to use on the company’s school buses. The OEM also offers chemical recommendations for cleaning all school bus surface types, from flooring to plastics, seatbelts to bus exteriors.
Editor’s note — Find links to cleaning recommendations from the manufacturers and more at STN’s COVID-19 Resources for Student Transporters page.
What Products Can You Use?
One product that works as a shield to better protect surfaces from the virus is AEGIS, a micro-shield surface that is designed to prevent the virus from sticking. The United Safety and Survivability Corporation (USSC) Group which owns the Fogmaker North America brand of fire suppression systems used in some school buses, demonstrated the product during a webinar last week.
The company commenced the webinar by providing statistics from Abacus Data, indicating that 69 percent of people will be comfortable riding a city bus following the public health crisis as long as certain conditions are met. These conditions include cleaning surfaces regularly, providing enough distance between passengers, reducing the number of people on board, requiring passengers to wear masks, and the general trustworthiness of the agency.
USSC stated that AEGIS helps to treat surfaces and is formulated to permanently bond to any substrate that it is applied to. As the company demonstrated in the webinar, the surface must first be cleaned and then disinfected for AEGIS to work properly.
USSC also advised that once the surface is cleaned and disinfected, AEGIS should be applied to high-touch areas only once a year. For school buses, these areas include windows, handrails, steering wheel, switches, knobs, and school bus interior seating.
The product can be applied by a USSC customer service member, or by district or bus company staff. USSC recommends wearing gloves and a face shield when applying AEGIS. However, it noted the product is safe if it comes in contact with skin or clothing.
USSC Group sells the product in five-gallon buckets that can be easily transferred into a pump sprayer. AEGIS purportedly only takes a couple of minutes to dry before the surface is ready for normal use.
Is There a Way to Better Streamline the Process?
Zonar Systems said its Electronic Verified Inspection Reporting (EVIR) solution is now configured to help school officials ensure the cleanliness and sanitation of their school buses.
“The new configuration is a critical feature for school bus fleet managers and transportation directors to make sure that each step of the cleaning and disinfecting of each school bus in a fleet takes place before and after every trip,” according to a press release issued by the company on May 14. “The sanitization configuration is an extension of EVIR, which is already widely used for verifying Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s FMCSA mandated pre- and post-trip inspections have taken place.”
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Zonar stated that disinfecting school buses after each trip is critical, and EVIR is the reportedly the only verified, visual inspection system available in the market today.
“Fleet managers can log in to the online portal to monitor completed, incomplete or missing sanitization checks. They can also view the timestamped zones to see if any part of the cleaning was rushed or performed improperly,” the press release stated.
EVIR can also help transportation directors and fleet managers: streamline their bus sanitization process for improved productivity while prioritizing cleanliness of operations; digitize the records of cleanings while eliminating a paper trail and making a major task easier to manage; increase productivity by identifying the exact areas and sanitization requirements of each zone; and set and monitor expectations of how to sanitize areas and the duration of each task.