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Published March 29, 2016 20:31

Certified technicians, alternative fuel among factors in reducing school bus total cost of ownership

FORT VALLEY, GA — School districts across the nation are analyzing how they purchase, service and fuel their bus fleets to make the best economic decisions for their communities. By studying total ownership costs — for the life of the bus— school districts can make a more informed decision on how to manage their lifetime fleet expenses.

Two examples of districts collecting this data are Biloxi, Mississippi and Washingtonville, New York.

“After evaluating our data, we found the right choice for Biloxi Public Schools,” said Sam Bailey, transportation director for Biloxi Public Schools. “Although not always the cheapest purchase price, [through our data] we found that Blue Bird had the lowest cost of ownership, [lowest] out-of-commission time, and the longest in-service life expectancy by 41 percent over the other brands.”

Through their data, Biloxi has also found the vehicle in-service rate for Blue Birds is also higher than the other brands – there is a higher percentage of Blue Bird buses on the road than in the shop for repairs. This means these buses are more reliable to get children to school every day.

“Our technicians are ASE certified, which means that Blue Bird recognizes our technicians are qualified and permits our technicians to complete warranty replacements at our department to expedite the buses back to service,” says Sam Bailey. “Blue Bird, as a manufacturer, is responsive to customer needs in regards to warranty issues, which also reduces the time the buses are in the shop.”

Washingtonville Central School District has also reported valuable savings through their Blue Bird propane models. While the upfront cost of the propane buses was higher than diesel buses, the school district was able to recoup that incremental cost within one year.
“Environmental reasons were a large part of our decision to purchase Blue Bird propane autogas buses as much as cost savings,” said Paul Nienstadt, executive director of operations for Washingtonville Central School District. “We had a quick return on investment due to the immediate savings from both fuel and routine maintenance expenses, and this factors into our overall cost of ownership.”

Routine maintenance costs have dropped 30 percent for its alternative fuel buses compared to the district’s diesel buses. Including a federal tax credit, Washingtonville CSD saves $21,000 per year on fuel costs.

“School district fleet managers across the nation are finding, through their comprehensive evaluation, that Blue Bird school buses make economic sense,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird. “Progressive districts like Biloxi and Washingtonville are examining the time lost when operating their school buses, which helps the tax payers and gets the children to school on time.”

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