mance management program (PMP), set by specific defined measures that contractors have to meet. The contractors also have access to the data, so they too can measure their performance. Some components of the PMP include contractors

providing regular updates to a physical inventory list of their operations, for example a driver roster that includes qualifications. “This opens up the door that we’ve never had a view into before,” Kauhi said. “And so, because the contract requires them to report this, we now can keep sort of a pulse on what’s happening within the four walls of their businesses.” Another component of the PMP is setting expecta-

tions, one standard being that more than 2 percent of a company’s vehicles aren’t allowed to be missing or run- ning late. While Kauhi added that zero percent error is always preferred, reasonable expectations have to be set. “The idea is to set measurable goals and work collectively

to achieve those benchmarks,” he said. “But if we’re falling short, we sit and talk about the past quarter. Why was it that you were having a difficult time with service issues? Why were you having a difficult time with recruiting and retain- ing qualified drivers? We help close that gap.”

Training Meanwhile, school bus manufacturers and vendors can play a large role in helping school districts remain efficient throughout the school year. There are a lot of different components, however, to ensuring employees are trained properly on maintenance software and tech- nology will help for smoother repairs and less time spent in the shop, which equates to more time school buses are on the road. For instance, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems is helping school districts increase safety and reduce the number and severity of rear-end crashes and rollovers, which in turn reduces the number of repairs. TJ Thom- as, the company’s director of marketing and customer solutions and controls, said driver training videos are one example of how Bendix is accomplishing this. “Bendix offers videos, service data sheets, brake-school.

com, and in-person training,” Thomas said. “We also offer support from the Bendix tech team and demonstrations to help school districts understand how the systems work, troubleshooting procedures, and best practices for keep- ing the systems in good working order.” The Lion Electric Company dedicates an entire team,

the Bright Squad, to training customers on its line of electric school buses. “Bright Squad is all about bringing the customer a great experience,” said Patrick Gervais, vice president of marketing and communications for Lion Electric. “We don’t just hand them the keys. We are there with them for the journey.” Gervais added that Bright Squad members are there to support customers in their daily operations to help

30 School Transportation News • JANUARY 2021

optimize their fleets, which can be accomplished with the OEM’s proprietary telematics system. “The Lion Beat telematics system allows Lion to keep

track of vehicles in the customer’s fleet, but also to ensure the efficiency of drivers, and to train them as needed,” Gervais said of the company’s purpose-designed system. “Team members can receive preventative maintenance notifications and warnings so that issues are taken care of quickly to avoid unnecessary downtime.” Lion has also incorporated virtual reality solutions into

its service team’s capabilities to help their customers without the need for physical contact. Meanwhile, the Lion Energy team works exclusively

on EV infrastructure to make sure customers have the charging hardware they need approximately scaled to their fleet. Gervais explained that the Lion Energy Project man- ages the entire process from beginning to end, including utility coordination and hardware installation, so that the customer does not have to spend time managing these details. “Ultimately this ensures they will have charging in place the day they receive their electric bus,” he said. Thomas Built Buses, meanwhile, trains and certifies

dealers with the Platinum Support Program to ensure that the company supports their dealers in providing a fast turnaround on service and repairs which results in increased uptime for customers. “Each Platinum Support dealer undergoes rigorous training on how to make their day-by-day business practices even more efficient, and in turn, provide faster vehicle assessment and repair. The result is reduced downtime and a lower overall life cycle cost on bus- es,” said Andy Lukacs, vice president of operations at Thomas Built Buses. All dealers also offer customers maintenance and driv- er training to continue to ensure the most efficient fleet possible, Lukacs added. IC Bus is expected to roll out its first CE Series electric school buses this month across British Columbia, where school boards are relying on the expertise of the Navistar company’s eMobility business unit called NEXT. Con- sulting services provided by the NEXT team accompany the IC Bus rollout this year, which include assistance in constructing charging stations that meet the specific needs and duty cycles of individual fleets. NEXT is also actively collecting data on real-world operations includ- ing routes and weather.

Parts Because being efficient is so closely tied to budget, it’s

one of the leading concerns from transportation direc- tors and supervisors nationwide, explained Lukacs at Thomas. Because of that, the OEM continuously looks for ways to improve efficiency. “An efficient fleet is also more cost-effective,” he added. Choosing the right parts, or technology can be daunt-

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