contacted Davis about how to du- plicate his effort. He talks with some on the phone and invites others to come see for themselves how his facility can serve as a prototype for their new shops. The main piece of advice he gives is to plan for adequate space and how it is used. “The number one thing I tell them is to get your floor space correct and your bay size correct, because you can’t change that,” Davis said. “The optimal bay size is 24 feet wide and 50 feet long for your stan- dard 72-passenger school bus. We got that right. You can change light- ing and doors, but once you pour the concrete, it’s done. That’s the number one feature that will be appreciated 25 years from now.” Davis made sure Wi-Fi was installed

throughout the building. “We also have networking ports, so we have internet connections,” Davis said. “The architect ran all of our utilities under the concrete. Each technician has a work station in their bay and all the electrical comes up through the floor. There is nothing hanging from the ceiling, so it makes for a clean, neat, safe work environment.” Davis purchased wireless lifts and

mobile column lifts, so there are no cords on the floor to trip over. “Each technician has his own wireless lift,” he said. “They can lift a bus and walk from bumper to bumper. There are no in-ground lifts—it’s all portable. This makes cleaning the bay much easier.” All of Fayette County’s garage doors

are electric, and the technicians have their own remotes to open and close the doors to their bays. “In a 16-bay shop, you can imagine what a game changer that is,” Davis said. “It’ll pay for itself in just heating during the winter.” Davis said a collateral benefit of

putting everything under one roof is a more efficient operation, because of shared resources and personnel. “Did I get my dream shop?” Davis continued. “For the most part, yes. I

wouldn’t trade this shop or the people in it for anything.” Cal Blacker, director of transportation and main- tenance for the Cheatham County School District in Ashland City, Tennessee, agreed on the use of space. Blacker said his district cur- rently shares a facility with the county road depart- ment, but it is inadequate for student transportation needs. Even though he estimated that it will be about two years before con- struction begins on a new garage, he said he knows what he wants in space and equipment.


Fayetteville County Schools

Staff of 11 garage employees, eight of which are mechanics … Fleet size is 259 school buses that transport

10,000 students one way, daily … Service area is

199 square miles south of Atlanta

“Ideally, we’d want six

doors with wide-enough bays, an overhead lift, a grease pit for lube jobs and a vehicle wash bay,” Black- er said. “We’d also want to put all of the administrative

offices in that facility. It would be separated from maintenance by a firewall.” Joel Mooneyham, assistant director of fleet services for the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD near Houston, maintains a fleet of 1,100 multi-purpose buses with five fully func- tioning bus shops and two body shops. He has some propane and some gasoline-pow- ered buses, but the majority of his buses are diesel. He said that four of the shops are cur- rently undergoing modernizing renovations. “We are changing the lighting in three of the shops from incandescent to LED and we’re going from manual to electric roll-up doors,” he said. “If a school bond package we are [considering] passes, we will install air conditioning and upgrade the heating in all five shops.”

Technology and Technician Training The technology that is needed in future bus garages will be dictated by the types of fleets they will service—CNG, diesel, electric, gasoline or propane—and the types of on- board technology they are equipped with. Todd Hawkins, senior vice president of

maintenance for First Group America, said the school bus contracting model prefers to use in-house technicians to repair the tech- nology, but that is a training challenge being felt across the automotive industry. “Dealer- ships are having as tough a time as everyone else finding technicians, so we try to do as much in-house as possible,” he said. “We try to control our own destiny.” Hawkins said maintenance on new technology currently comprises about five percent of the total repair time on a bus, but it is increasing. “Technology moves faster than what we

can keep up with sometimes,” Hawkins said. “Electronic controls, including telematics, are becoming a larger part of our day. Keeping 1,700 technicians up-to-date on the new technology is tough. We have one guy on staff who does nothing but deal with elec- tronic issues. He can remotely hook up to a bus and run telematics that way.” Hawkins attributed the shortage of qual-

ified technicians to a lack of technical education and changing attitudes toward working on vehicles. “First, there is no 41

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