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www.stnonline.com


DATA, STATISTICS AND TRENDS School Bus Replacements:


A Boiling Frog Issue? Latest production data shows a widening gap between older and newer buses, as school districts opt for the pain of maintaining aging fleet rather than making new purchases


T


he most recent yellow school bus manufacturing numbers decreased for the first time in the past eight years, when the industry felt the full impact the Great Recession made in sapping school district coffers. But despite the


downtick, a greater dilemma came into fine focus: New purchases are not keeping up with the need to retire aging school buses. School Transportation News surveyed the nine school bus manu-


facturers, as well as Ford Motor Company and General Motors, to determine the total school bus body and chassis figures for the pro- duction year that started Nov. 1, 2017, and that concluded on Oct. 31, 2018. Type A and Type C school bus figures are only estimates, as Te Lion Electric Company, Titan Bus and Trans Tech provided preliminary numbers or none at all. Heavy-duty commercial vehicle analysts at ACT Research Com- pany commented that total school bus production across North America was essentially flat, when factoring in vehicles that were built specifically for the Mexico market. However, for the U.S. and Canada, data reported to STN shows a nearly 3-percent decrease in output, compared to the previous manufacturing period. Type C school bus production fell by nearly 800 units, but remained


above 31,000 for the second year in a row. Still, last year’s report of 31,554 Type Cs built were the second most on record, at least over the past two decades that STN has been compiling the informa- tion. Type A production, meanwhile, was also down about 1,000


vehicles. However, Type D builds rose by nearly 400 units. Te bigger issue is that new school bus purchase orders continue to trail the demand for replacing aging vehicles. “Progress on reduc- ing fleet age is painfully slow,” said Steve Tam, vice president of ACT Research. “I think relatively few districts look at the econom- ics on a total cost of ownership basis.” A free webinar presented by STN in November (now archived at


www.stnonline.com), presented details on how the rising costs of maintaining aging fleets negatively affect a school bus operation’s ability to implement new safety technology. Te moral of the story told by fleet consultant Paul Lauria of Mercury Associates during the webinar was that too many school districts continue to sink money into a depreciating value vehicle, when they could get more mileage out of their money by purchasing new, and in doing so, reduce operation costs. “It is much less painful to pay a little amount of money for increased maintenance than it is to pay considerably more money for a new bus. It’s kind of like the boiling frog syndrome,” Tam commented. He pointed out that increased privatization has helped with mod- ernization, and he suggested that the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund is expected “to provide a catalyst for change for the next round of accelerating replacement.” But “for now, though,” he silver-lined, “the market appears pretty stable.” ●


45K


School Buses Manufactured*


*Nov. 1, 2017- Oct. 31, 2018


Total Buses Built* *Including MFSABs, commercial


51K+ buses and GSA contract vehicles


Compared to 2018 Buyers Guide Data


6.5%


2017-2018 Breakdown of School Buses By Type Type A ....................................................................... 8,719 Type C ................................................................... 31,554 Type D .....................................................................4,508 Total ........................................................................44,634


*Estimated * *


*


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