Fleet Maintenance: Just How Clean Is Today's Diesel Fuel?
published on May 11, 2016 by Sonia Mastros
Until recently, diesel fuel was associated with school buses that were loud, dirty and smelled bad. Over the past several years, diesel has become cleaner, though certain myths still exist about its true environmental impact. School buses provide reliable transportation for millions of American students each day, so it’s no wonder that parents and school administrators worry about how diesel fuel affects health.
As Federal clean air rules have tightened, diesel has become a cleaner option. This is good news, since a majority of today’s school buses are powered by diesel. Many new buses operate with Ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD), so their emission levels are significantly lower. Another benefit to diesel is the fuel-efficiency. Because it is more energy-dense, it simply lasts longer.
Some fleet maintenance departments are also switching to cleaner blends of high-quality biodiesel. This fuel is a renewable, clean-burning alternative to regular diesel that is made from products like recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats. This is an attractive alternative for many districts because it reduces dependence on foreign-produced oil.
New buses are required to meet the EPA’s tough emission standards. The EPA’s Clean School Bus program is also available to districts that operate older school buses. The agency provides the following tips to fleet maintenance professionals for keeping students safe from emissions.
- Develop idle reduction policies
- Discourage drivers from directly following other school buses or large vehicles, especially if visible smoke is being emitted
- Assign the longest routes to the cleanest buses
- Minimize the time that students wait outside around buses
- Provide an indoor space where drivers can wait during inclement weather
- Educate students, drivers and teachers about the dangers of air pollution and how they can be avoided
Buses made in the mid to late 1980s are considered to be particularly hazardous when it comes to diesel emissions. What danger they pose is based greatly on how well they have been maintained. Many school districts are now retrofitting their buses with emissions-reduction technologies.
These advances in engine technology are not only reducing emissions, they are also increasing fuel efficiency. New technologies include engine preheaters, diesel-oxidation catalysts and closed-crankcase filtration systems. The Federal government and some states even offer incentive programs for districts that retrofit their fleets.
To learn more about tools used by fleet management departments to keep students safe, contact our team of school transportation specialists.
Does your school district rely on diesel to power its fleet? Have you retrofitted your fleet or even made the switch to alternative fuel? Please share your experiences with us.