Special Report

Heating Up for Winter A wide range of solutions exist to ensure school buses and operations remain in working condition when temperatures drop


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he arctic cold that gripped a large swath of the country in late 2017 and into this year may have thrown a curve ball at some school transportation direc- tors, but Old Man Winter isn’t likely to put one past them this coming year. Count David L. Pace, director of the Virginia Beach (Va.) Schools Department

of Transportation Services, in that group. And, not just because of last winter’s cold slap in the face. “As hot as it’s been this summer, if this winter is that much colder, then it’s going to be very cold,” he predicted. On Jan. 2, about 75 Virginia Beach buses—nearly one in 10 throughout the fleet— experienced problems caused by a prolonged cold stretch and inactivity over the holiday break. Pace said a new procedure was put into place, should this winter’s bite be as harsh as last winter. “If those freezing conditions are being forecast when buses are off the road, I have

a process in place for drivers to start the buses, drive them around and get the fluids circulating,” he explained. “We had some of those same conditions in February and the drivers did do some extra driving around to keep the buses running.” Normally, the district doesn’t need to take many proactive steps to address cold

weather because extreme temperatures are rare for the area, and the mechanics keep vehicles in top running condition. “We use two or three cold-cranking batteries and we may use grille bras in cold weather. We have Webasto heaters to warm some older buses, because they’re not efficient enough to heat the inside of the bus. We don’t use engine heaters or heated dipsticks,” Pace noted.

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Comfort North America, Inc., said he prescribes to the “ounce of prevention” axiom. “First and foremost, I like to tell people: Don’t wait until the last minute,” he said.

“People tend to try to start up their product the first day they need it and find it needs some kind of maintenance or repair. Being a little bit proactive and starting them prior to the season and making sure they’re ready to go, has a large benefit.” While preheating engines reduces idle time and improves fuel mileage, he’s seen demand for engine heaters warming up in milder climes and not to keep passengers warm. “If you can precondition that engine by getting it up to operating temperature before

you stick the key in, you drastically reduce the wear and tear on diesel particulate filters,” Baczewski said. “If they’re regenning those engines every 10 to 15 days, by preheating the engine maybe they’re extending it out to 25 to 30 days. It’s a tremendous savings, not only in the cleaning process of the DPFs, but also in the time and energy it takes regenning the system.” Baczewski noted that independent testing shows that at an ambient temperature of 75 800-247-5391

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degrees pre-conditioning the engine results in 27 percent less particulate matter being introduced into the after-treatment system. At 40 degrees, 66 percent less particulate matter was emitted. Pre-conditioning the engine reduced nitrogen oxides by 40 percent, regardless of the ambient temperature, other testing revealed. Tere’s an added benefit in places where temperatures may only occasionally drop

low enough to require buses to be warmed up before a run. “You don’t have to bring in the mechanics early to start the buses and you don’t have to run electric cords back

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18 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2018 1/7/16 8:39 AM

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