The latest survey from School Transportation News explored the topic of school bus purchasing. More than 270 readers responded, expressing a range of opinions that broadened the understanding of the subject, especially in terms of vehicle replacement.
“Mileage on our buses typically is low—a few thousand miles a year,” said Robert Sutton, director of transportation for Augusta USD 402 in Kansas. “Due to low mileage, we often keep buses until they reach the mandatory retirement age.”
Augusta USD 402 has 16 buses in its fleet. Sutton added that if there is a bus “we are spending a lot of money on for repairs, we will replace it.”
This outlook was supported by Carol Hatfield, transportation services director for Hillsboro School District 1J in Oregon, which employees 200 buses in its fleet.
“Our main focus currently is to replace those buses identified as ‘gross polluters’ by a mandated date,” Hatfield said. “This is requiring us to replace 10 buses per year for the next eight years. This, however, is not allowing for growth of our fleet, which is needed, but limited to available funding.”
While adequate funding, or lack thereof, for updating a fleet was the focus of discussion, another issue has slowly been creeping into the forefront: the driver shortage.
Some districts are lucky enough to avoid the scarcity; however, a large number of transportation departments continue to suffer. We are “advertising through banners, ads and social media,” said Jim Scroggin, director of transportation for Lafayette School Corporation in Indiana, which has 112 buses in its fleet.
Still, those fleets persevere through the drought and reach out as much as possible to attract drivers and keep them behind the wheel. David Dady, regional transportation and facilities coordinator for Teaching Mentoring Communities in Laredo, Texas, said his organization has “good recruitment” for drivers to helm 201 buses in the fleet.
He added that to keep driver numbers up, TMC offers all existing and new employees money to get a CDL and state school bus certification. It also provides drivers “full time with full benefits employment, including a 401K plan,” Dady said.
Editor’s Note: Reprinted from the February 2017 issue of School Transportation News magazine.