Tips for Managing Your School Bus Fleet
Transporting kids to and from school is an enormous responsibility. And when you’re overseeing the entire busing system, there’s even more pressure. School buses are considered to be the safest vehicles on the road and it’s your job to keep it that way. Remember these tips for managing your school bus fleet in a confident and efficient manner.
Stay on Top of Maintenance
A preventative maintenance schedule can help you spot smaller problems before they become big ones. When one part of the bus isn’t performing properly, other parts can get thrown out of whack, too. With regular checkups, you’ll optimize the life spans of your fleet. Without a schedule, buses are more likely to break down on the road, putting children in danger. Unexpected repairs mean your buses can’t drive their routes when you need them and could be out of commission for a while.
Stagger regular maintenance appointments so that it’s never necessary to have more than one bus at the mechanic shop. And make sure that drivers are inspecting their buses before and after every trip. Instill a sense of ownership in drivers so they’ll be proactive about taking care of their vehicles—and the precious cargo inside them. Set standards for performance and a system for documenting inspections. Before drivers begin their routes each day, they should check the inspection reports from the previous day and familiarize themselves with the weather conditions ahead. A maintenance checklist should include these features, split among daily and longer interval inspections:
- Window glass integrity and operation
- Exterior lights
- Tire pressure and tread
- Windshield wipers
- Heating, air conditioning, and defroster
- Brakes and rotors
- Cooling and fuel systems
- Undercarriage condition
- Oil levels and filter
- Other fluids (steering, brakes, antifreeze)
- CV joints
- Tire rotation
- Winter tire change
- Belts and hoses
- Electrical system
- Spark plugs
- Exhaust system
Track with Telematics
GPS technology is one of the best things that has happened for the busing industry. Schools can track where their drivers are, parents can trace their kids’ progress, and parameters can be set so you’re alerted when a bus has wandered off its preassigned route. Telematics—bus data that can be remotely transmitted—can give you accurate odometer readings and diagnostic trouble codes. That’s information that will give you a bigger picture of how your drivers are performing.
Use Management Software
Fleet managers also have different software choices for paperless documentation. You can program alerts for maintenance schedules based on time or mileage, save inspection records, organize route maps, and streamline work flow. You can store it in the cloud and access it from anywhere. Management software is a concrete way to analyze data and produce records at will. Getting an overall view of the fleet’s needs can help you budget for your future needs.
Reassess Regular Routes
That budget can always benefit from tweaking routes, based on the data from telematics. Inefficient panning adds up quickly with extra mileage and fuel, and idling time alone can have a big effect on the bottom line. Fewer miles mean fewer repairs and a longer life for your buses. Especially now, when classes are in flux, you can combine routes where possible. This is even more critical if students will be sitting farther apart in the wake of the pandemic.
Keep Up with Technology
Researchers are learning more every day about preventing accidents. Incorporating new technology into your buses doesn’t have to cost a lot. UV-C light can be used to help sanitize interiors and kill viruses, HEPA filters purify the air, and there are no drawbacks to installing more safety equipment. The more flashing lights and video cameras, the slimmer the chances that distracted drivers will collide with your bus. Future equipment will include sensors so drivers will know when pedestrians are close to the bus even if they can’t see them.
Continue Driver Training
The process for becoming a school bus driver is vigorous, and drivers are subject to ongoing scrutiny. Random drug and alcohol testing is an effective deterrent for unqualified drivers, and making sure that they’re in shape physically means that they’ll be up to any challenge. Drivers aren’t just student chauffeurs. They navigate, monitor passenger behavior, maneuver huge vehicles through tricky streets, communicate with parents, listen to students, and spring into action when emergencies occur. No one comes by all those skills naturally—they have to be taught. Review drivers’ comprehensive training regularly. Give them new instruction for accommodating students with disabilities. Familiarize them with new technology. Encourage them to give you feedback about ways to improve the system.
Shine Them Up
School buses are yellow so they can be identified immediately, but harsh weather conditions and dusty roads can build up fast on their exteriors. Your fleet should look as good as it performs, and one or two washes a year is not enough for vehicles. Establish a procedure for cleaning buses. Drivers are already sanitizing the interiors between each trip, and more regular washes make it easier to clean them each time. Drivers shouldn’t have to get their buses cleaned on their own time. Add more regular washes to the schedule and pay attention to how your fleet appears to others. It should instill a sense of pride in you, the school, and the parents who trust you to care for their children.
It’s in everyone’s best interest to learn these tips for managing your school bus fleet. Overlooking the details and taking maintenance shortcuts can lead to more repair bills in the long run. With some organization and firm standards, buses will incur fewer expenses and live longer lives. Drivers won’t need to spend their downtime reacting to unexpected complications, and students will be even safer on their way to school.
National Bus has been witnessing the evolution of the school bus for 30 years. We’re a bus dealer that can customize vehicles to your specifications, whether you’re interested in a preowned or brand-new bus. We also have an extensive selection of coaches, shuttles, and vans that can ship to you anywhere in the country. If you’re in the Tulsa area, stop by to see our buses or call us with any questions. We leave it to the schools to educate students, but we make it our mission to educate school bus buyers.