Fayette County school children are on very safe buses

Tue, 09/09/2008 - 2:46pm
By: Carolyn Cary

Keeping their eyes on safety

You can read about the number of Fayette County school buses on the road each day, the number of gallons of diesel fuel that is used, and the hours of training and re-certification of the drivers, but the real question is — are the buses safe?

“Indeed they are,” said George Davis, bus shop supervisor. He is in charge of anything on wheels that the Board of Education owns, from school buses, to automobiles, to lawn mowers.

“We not only adhere to federal, national, and state of Georgia specifications, but specifications we feel must be met here in Fayette County.”

Davis is on the national and state of Georgia committee that draw up these specifications and guidelines. He considers it a privilege to have input into writing them.

He is a1980 graduate of Fayette County High School and came to work for the Board of Education at that time. There are several other shop employees who also graduated from this school and began their work career with the BOE.

There are 13 employees in the bus shop and they are busy eight hours a day, five days a week. They are all cross-trained to do everything that might be required.

There are close to 200 school buses on the roads twice a day. When the shop was built in 1983, there were 80 buses on the road. In 1966 there were eight buses, and then, all were owned by their drivers.

One bus may average close to driving 100 miles a day and the special needs buses may drive as much as 180 miles a day.

What is the size of the diesel tanks on the larger bus? It will hold 100 gallons, and the average bus will get seven miles to the gallon. It hold five gallons of oil and the average bus can go 10,000 miles before it needs an oil change.

The shop has two diesel tanks and it purchases an average of 12,000 gallons a week.

“One tank used to hold gasoline, but after the Katrina storm, and fuel was hard to come by, we converted it to holding diesel,” Davis said.

Each month each school bus is inspected visually by checking the brakes, tires, do any seat repairs and check the mileage. There are 14 bays in the shop and 12 are filled each day with a bus.

There are two assistant shop supervisors, Scott Wright, and David Mazur, who each keep a bay open for any immediate repairs needed. Perhaps a bus had a flat tire on its route, and this way the bus can be taken care of in time for the next route without any time lost.

Many years ago, if a transmission went out on a bus, it would take half a day to get it out, another day to rebuild it, another half day to put it back in, and that bus was out of service for several days.

All buses today are digital, and a laptop plugged into it can reveal problems. If a transmission goes out on a route, it is hauled in, the transmission is taken right out, a new one is put right in, and it’s roadworthy the same day. The old transmission is then rebuilt at leisure.

The buses in 1981 were straight-shift, used gasoline and the bus only got four miles to the gallon, the door had to be shut manually, the warning lights had to be turned off manually, there was not even a two-way radio, no power steering, and probably no air brakes. Consequently when the last student got on the bus the driver’s right arm had to manually close the door, shift gears, and turn of the warning lights all in one swift moment. That movement continued time after time during the morning and afternoon routes.

Today everything is computer controlled and the buses even have air-ride seats.

A new school bus today costs about $77,200 and the shorter special-needs buses are about $89,000. Those buses require a fire suppression system that adds $3 to $4,000 to the cost, as well as the special wheelchair fittings.

Also added to the cost of a new bus is the camera system, which about $2,600. There are two cameras inside the bus and two on the outside. If the bus is turned on, the cameras are automatically on. If a bus driver reports someone going around them when they are stopped with the warning lights on, or a driver goes through a stop sign, the camera film reflects the car and its license plate. A print is made from the film and turned over to the sheriff’s department.

Davis has added an electric stop sign added to the middle of the back door. “Today the buses seem to sit higher, and cars seem to get smaller, and the red blinking lights at the top of the bus are not always seen,” Davis said. “It costs about $200 to install this new blinking stop sign on each new bus, but it is worth the cost. Just two years ago, five women in a car did not evidently see the stopped bus’ warning lights on, and slid almost all the way under the back of the bus.”

Just as airplane workers keep in mind as they repair an airplane, their family might be flying on it next, so do school bus workers keep the same thought. It might be one of their children riding that bus next. As far as the mechanics of the school bus and the certification of its driver, your children are quite safe.

login to post comments