What ‘Uptime’ Means for the School Bus Garage

Written by Robert T. Pudlewski N

ew technology developments in the school bus industry are not slowing down. In fact, our industry is racing right along with the trucking industry. Our school bus manufacturers and

their relationships to the engineering of medium-duty trucks continue to help advance the capabilities, function- ality and safety of school buses that are on the road today. As we drive into a new decade, much of what we see

and have yet to see on “connected” school buses will contribute not only to the above-mentioned capabilities but also to the frequently used term “uptime.” Uptime is better defined as keeping the bus safe, on

the road, on time, and within budget. Those are the key functionalities and goals of our maintenance teams. How will data and connectivity continue to affect school bus maintenance? We will see continued progress in better optimizing vehicle service through over-the-air (OTA) connected system operations, predictive maintenance practices, benchmarking programs, uptime efficiencies through remote diagnostics, remote programming, and improved optimization of parts ordering and stocking. Proper maintenance and proper service really do drive

vehicle uptime. We all understand the importance of knowing about all of the district or company operational requirements. We especially stress that understanding these requirements help to better recognize that inte- grating maintenance systems with other information technological changes may have a beneficial impact on maintenance operations.

Predictive Maintenance and Benchmarking The model of predictive maintenance, or “replace-

before-failure,” is becoming more widely used with the advent of collected system data being turned into usable information. Tracking and comparing data on unplanned breakdowns can help improve

an entire maintenance operation’s uptime and lower maintenance costs. Benchmarking is a process that all garages should use

to monitor and compare the performance of an old pro- cedure or work process to the perceived benefit of a new system. That method requires using accurate data in a standardized format, in order to create actionable items. Benchmarking also provides operations with a means to set a standard, and then it measures the failure or success of new systems against that standard. That provides the opportunity to quantify the benefit of any new process.

Data and Connectivity The advent of digital and cloud-based storage, and the school bus manufacturer’s continued expansion of connected services offered either as OEM or aftermarket solutions, allows bus fleets to collect so much more information from vehicle onboard sensors. These include trip data from management and maintenance systems, onboard vehicle systems, and telematics devices. It’s been the shift to actually using this data that is

driving industry change today. Advancements by software providers in the collection, assessment and presentation of this information to fleets will provide direction on decision-making for school bus operation leaders to introduce uptime operational improvements. Software companies as well as OEM subsidiaries

continue to find new methods and areas from which to collect data. For instance, when it comes to data that is collected from the school bus chassis and body, technol- ogy has evolved to where sensors collect data from all aspects of the complete bus. This ongoing generation of data helps monitor such

items as fuel usage, brake application, tire pressure, bus location, cameras to monitor students, and so on.

“As we enter this new decade, and with it an era of expanded use of telematics and connected vehicles, the ability to remotely diagnose and program a vehicle will have a significant impact on vehicle uptime.”

24 School Transportation News • FEBRUARY 2020

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