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SPECIAL REPORT Keeping Stride


Leading fleet managers say school districts that have kept up with preventive maintenance, inspection schedules during COVID-19 closures should be able to start new school year with few mechanical problems.


Written By Taylor Hannon | taylor@stnonline.com S


ummer came early and abruptly, not only for the students and some staff members, but also for school buses. They were prepared to transport students for another two to three months, when


COVID-19 caused schools to close nationwide. However, as the school buses prepare to rev up again for the new school year, will there be complications from many of the vehicles being parked for so long? School Transportation News queried the 2020 Garage


Stars (profiles begin on page 20) for their perspectives. They all agreed that sitting buses aren’t a big concern, that is if operations are stay- ing on top of maintenance. Many shops have contin- ued working during school closures to keep their fleets in shape, either so the school buses could deliver food, school supplies or Wi-Fi internet access, or as to simply not be bogged down when school starts up again. Essentially, they said, school bus mainte- nance should have been and should continue to be business as usual. “Inspections and preventive maintenance schedules,”


fluid and filter changes during the closure. “However, it is important to remember that a true pre-


David Brewington, senior technician at the South Carolina Department of Education, said inspections and preventive maintenance schedules are two of the most important aspects of keeping fleets in working order.


dictive program requires more than simply replacing a part or component at a predetermined time or mileage,” Brewington explained. “Several other factors should be considered. Quality of part, correct application, use and misuse, and related factors such as lubricants, adjust- ments, etc., if applicable.” Brewington knows the fundamentals of a good inspec- tion program, as he worked alongside Marshall Casey, the now-retired director of fleet maintenance at the SCDE. Brewington said Casey was hired as a technician at the same shop Brewington worked at. He added that when Casey became the director of maintenance, he set out to make fleets safer and more efficient, which is how his formal, more detailed inspec- tion program came about. The National School Bus Inspec- tion Training encourages student transporters to exceed the federal and state minimum requirements. It is scheduled


pointed out David Brewington, senior technician at the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE), when asked for the two most important aspects of keeping fleets in working order. “This basic one-two punch are the two most important components for keeping a fleet at the highest level of safety and efficiency. Of course, there are many more ingredients to a comprehensive program such as driver and technician training.” Brewington, who has over 50 years of experience in the school transportation industry, said the SCDE maintenance staff have taken advantage of the additional downtime to work on predictive maintenance. He said they leveraged historical maintenance data to replace components before they fail. In addition, his technicians have also been work- ing on routine preventive maintenance items such as oil,


16 School Transportation News • AUGUST 2020


to be taught at the STN EXPO Indianapolis on Oct. 9. “The program contained a comprehensive training, testing and certification component that became the cor- nerstone of ensuring that safety was paramount, and that the entire fleet of over 5,000 buses statewide were all meet- ing the same level of safety and quality,” Brewington said. He noted that prior to the current state superintendent being elected, the SCDE had the oldest fleet of school buses in the nation. “We were operating buses that were over 30 years old and had over 500,000 miles on the odometer. I’m not sure we could have been able to survive during those times without a solid, well-planned inspection program,” he said. Brewington added that a good maintenance and inspec-


tion schedule helps to alleviate the stress and concerns of the buses sitting for so long, as his team has continued to perform their scheduled inspections and services, which


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