Two new South Bend School Corporation transportation electric school buses are expected to be in route service this month. The vehicles were unveiled during a ceremony last month.
LaToya King, the district’s director of transportation, told School Transportation News that she anticipated the Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 “Jouley” electric school buses (ESBs) would be in service by mid-February.
“We are in the process of getting them commissioned and inspected by our local fire department,” she explained, following the Jan. 27 event.
The buses are expected to service 100-mile routes.
South Bend secured the ESBs with over $822,000 in grants with the help of Drive Clean Indiana, the state’s federally recognized Clean Cities coalition, through the Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund and from utility Indiana Michigan Power. The Michiana Area Council of Government’s Northern Indiana Green Fleet program provided technical assistance.
The South Bend ESBs will bring the number statewide to 15, according to Drive Clean Indiana.
Unlike a common theme across the U.S., King said infrastructure and chargers were already in place by the time the buses arrived, resulting in the vehicles being ready to roll out once permits go through.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a native of South Bend, applauded the work.
“These buses mean cleaner air for kids and for neighborhoods around the community, and more budget dollars that can be invested in our kids instead of spent on diesel,” he said in a statement. “I know the school corporation plans to add even more electric school buses in the future, and for our part, the Biden administration will continue working to help schools across the country do the same so that students everywhere can breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives.”
South Bend officials said the adoption of electric school buses will displace over 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel while also reducing nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions.
The new buses also come equipped with Tyler Drive tablets, which South Bend demonstrated during the Jan. 27 event to show how they will track student ridership by scanning ID cards on and off the buses. The district said the tablets will assist drivers in determining efficient routes, improving communication, and providing more accurate pick up and drop off times.
“Using the tablets will allow for less paper usage and waste, aligning with the district’s efforts to deliver and promote a more environmentally friendly community,” the district added in a statement.
A Tyler representative explained that the Tyler Drive tablets include turn-by-turn directions and planned-versus-actual tracking to keep buses on pre-planned routes, ensuring that vehicles only drive the miles and use the fuel required. For un-planned routes, the tablets offer Dynamic Student Routing, a feature that automatically builds a route plan for students as they scan on board following the pre-defined rules set by the district, so even after-school runs are as efficient as possible. The tablet also aids in vehicle inspections to help ensure environmental and operational efficiency and to avoid wasting resources by staying ahead of needed repairs.
“I couldn’t be [prouder] of the accomplishments of the South Bend Community Schools Corporation team, not only because they are a leader in transportation management, but because of their commitment to student safety,” commented Ted Thien, general manager for student transportation at Tyler Technologies. “From the time they began working with Tyler Technologies routing software more than 20 years ago, I have seen them make the most of technology to ensure the safe, efficient transport of their precious cargo. By adding Tyler Drive tablets to their fleet, they are continuing that legacy and furthering their commitment to create a green future for their district.”
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