For the third year in a row, Saline Areas Schools is owner of four new school buses thanks to bond funds approved by city voters in November of 2015.
Operations Specialist Tracey Mulcare said the district took delivery of the shiny yellow, diesel-powered rigs just days ago.
“We got them on Wednesday this week. They were made in Tulsa, Oklahoma and then they went to Lansing,” she said. “In Lansing they were inspected by the state police, because that’s a requirement before we can drive them. As soon as they were inspected, and the cameras were installed, they were brought to us.”
On Friday, a blustery afternoon, Mulcare walked the bus yard and showed off the latest additions, which were sitting right next to the eight acquired over the two previous years.
“Our new ones are 70, 71, 72 and 73,” she said. “They are International (IC Bus). We’re trying to transition our fleet to all International because it makes it a lot simpler for repairs and keeping parts on hand and things like that.”
Having the new buses is a welcome state of affairs, according to Mulcare.
“We’ve been buying used buses for a while, so it’s been what we can get,” she said, indicating SAS had purchased the second-hand vehicles previously from districts such as Chelsea and Manchester. “They’re good quality buses, but not new to us by any means.”
The International buses still had that new car smell as Mulcare talked about their specifications. They get approximately nine to 10 miles-per-gallon, while the older fleet gets between six to eight miles-per-gallon.
“They hold 77 passengers,” she said. “Another nice feature is that they have a larger fuel tank which allows them to go further distances. They’re much, much better with emissions than our older buses, which is a huge selling point to us.”
Part of improving fleet efficiency comes by way of an additive, Mulcare said.
“We use what’s called DEF fluid, which has been around for, I think, less than 10 years,” she said. “It’s something that you add for the exhaust and it’s like an ammonia that cuts the particulates being emitted from the exhaust.”
Extending durability and reliability is key for a transportation system tasked with transporting an entire school district worth of kids.
“It depends on the route, but it can be as much as 10,000 miles pers year (per bus),” she said. “Some of do a lot of little routes during the day, depending on field trips and that, so sometimes it can be a little more. We have 31 routes and probably about 10 additional buses for field trips and that.”
Because of the nature of the district and its inclusion of several surrounding townships, Mulcare said the distance different drivers travel every day varies a great deal.
“We have routes that just go in town that go probably less than 20 miles in the morning and 20 miles in the afternoon,” she said, explaining the number as a sum between high school, middle school and elementary runs. “We have some much longer ones that go all the way out to our boundaries, like the Ann Arbor boundary, the Manchester boundary, we go out to Bridgewater, Macon, and those are a lot longer. I would say those are getting closer to 40 (or) 50 miles in the morning and again in the afternoon.”
As to whether four more new International buses will be brought in next year, Mulcare said she is not certain.
“That’s unclear,” she said, with a chuckle. “We’re pushing, of course, in our department to try and continue that trend and I can’t tell you yet whether they’ve determined if there will be four more next year or not. It depends on the board. Ideally, most districts try to have a 10-year replacement plan, so every 10 years you’re replacing every bus.”
Mulcare said the three new buses only require one final addition before hitting the road.
“We’re waiting on the radios to be installed,” she said. “We have an appointment next Friday, actually, for that to be done. We have to have the CB radios with the GPS to know where our buses are at and so that they can talk to us.”
Everyone at the transportation department is highly anticipating the buses’ inaugural trips, according to Mulcare.
“We’re very excited,” she said.