School Bus Maintenance: Controlling Costs
published on May 14, 2019 by Sonia Mastros
When it comes to the costs of a school bus fleet, fuel is usually the number one line item - but school bus maintenance costs are rarely far behind. Buses can be expensive to maintain but, of course, it's absolutely necessary to keep the buses running safely and on schedule.
Maintenance costs will always be needed, but they can often be reduced. Here are some tips for getting your ongoing costs-of-ownership as low as possible.
Five Ways to Reduce Your School Bus Maintenance Costs
1. Make Better Use of Data
Broadly speaking, the best way to minimize maintenance costs is to prevent the need for any major repairs. It will almost always be cheaper, in the long run, to do minor maintenance as early as possible, rather than letting mechanical problems grow.
Better data-collection and telematics make this possible! By installing GPS systems on your buses, and other electronic engine-monitoring systems, you can get highly granular data on performance. In turn, this allows you to establish baseline performance benchmarks which, when deviated from, are your early warnings of trouble.
2. Embrace Alternative Fuels
While the initial costs of conversion are high, one of the big benefits of buses running on electricity, propane, or natural gas is that all these systems minimize wear and tear on the engine and other components. Just about any alt fuel will bring lower maintenance costs, compared with standard gas or diesel.
3. Cut Bus Routes
If there are fewer buses on the road, your maintenance costs have to go down. There are a couple different ways to achieve this, while still fulfilling your transportation needs. Often, the best option is to get better bus routing software. A smart route-making system can very often discover ways to consolidate routes, while still getting every student to and from school.
Another option is to adjust your bell schedules. Shifting the hours' school starts and stops for certain groups of students can sometimes create opportunities for better-optimized bus usage.
4. Maximize Your Reimbursements
Are you getting every dollar you should be owed from state programs? Often, you can improve your reimbursements by having better and more accurate tracking of student ridership or other bus usage statistics. A little extra hardware tracking your usage can pay off via state funding.
There's a reason a lot of districts hire outside companies to manage their buses. A large company focused on providing bus services can usually leverage economies of scale and lower their costs beyond what a district could do on its own.
What other strategies has your district used to lower your school bus maintenance costs? Let us know in the comments below!