• December 5, 2019

TRE brings in new yellow buses - Odessa American: ECISD

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TRE brings in new yellow buses

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  • Now in Service

    ECISD Transportation Director Roger Cleere stands in one of their newer buses that has seatbelts.

Posted: Sunday, November 24, 2019 4:30 am

With the passage of the tax ratification election in 2018, Ector County ISD’s transportation department purchased some new buses and will be able to keep up its replacement schedule.

At the time of the election, about one third of the district’s fleet was approaching or beyond its useful life of 200,000 miles, the website said.

The funds purchased one new activity bus for extracurricular trips, eight new yellow buses and leased 30 new yellow buses. The new buses feature seat belts and video cameras and all of them are now in service.

Director of Transportation Roger Cleere said the total price was about $1.5 million.

The state now requires seat belts on buses.

“It has been shown that the safety in the bus is better with seatbelts. That is the recommendation of the National Highway Safety Administration,” Cleere said.

The fleet has 185 buses, but most are still pre-seatbelt. Cleere said they still have to ask students to wear their seatbelts.

“Typically we start looking at trying to get rid of a bus once it has gone beyond 15 years and 200,000 miles. Sometimes with the way we’re running now in the 15-year period of time, we’re putting more than 200,000 miles on it,” Cleere said.

Anything that is usable and running undergoes a yearly inspection to make sure everything is where it needs to be, Cleere said.

“We keep a check on the brakes,” he added. “Every day that they pull out of the compound, the drivers do a walk around and check on the bus … themselves. We try to keep them up to the very best of our capabilities.”

A few of the buses have been set aside as travel buses.

“We have the activity buses, but then we also have the yellow buses that we use for travel so we set a few of those aside to try to use for just that. Of course, we’re not out of the woods with replacing our buses so sometimes we have to use one of our travel buses on a daily route as well,” Cleere said.

“I have just ordered some more buses for the coming year, so the plan is to continue to allocate funds toward getting us back on track in our replacement plan,” he added.

For next year, Cleere said he has ordered eight buses total — seven yellow and one activity bus.

“We try to keep 10 of those in the fleet. They’re used for out of town travel mainly. Sometimes we have to utilize them for local travel. They cannot be used for delivering home to school and school to home, so they can only be used for extracurricular,” he said.

He noted that he was glad to get that first batch of buses.

“Most of them were here before we started school, but we didn’t get the last group of them until about three weeks after school started. We had the largest portion of them here, but we had to wait for a few of them to come in after school started,” Cleere said. “They were definitely welcomed (buses) when they got here.”

He said the district has gone back to gasoline operated buses.

“With all of the diesel buses now they have added so much on the emissions side of it that they’ve got particulate filters and different things in the exhaust system. … When a bus is going down the highway that’s not a big issue, but in stop-and-go traffic, the after treatment has a tendency to cause some problems and plug up quicker,” Cleere said. “So we chose to go back to a gasoline bus that doesn’t have all of the extra exhaust components that the diesel has.”

The buses put in 1.8 million miles a year. Cleere said it’s usually just short of 2 million miles for all the buses. That includes extra trips.

The county is 902 square miles and the buses travel to Pleasant Farms, Penwell, Goldsmith, Gardendale and all of Odessa.

Cleere said he’s about 22 drivers short so he still has to drive, but now it’s three days a week.

“We’ve actually been able to hire some drivers since school started so we’ve knocked that number down. But we’re still not out of the woods by any means. My office staff is still driving every day. They drive pretty much morning and afternoon every day. I’m the one that kind of gets to not drive every day,” Cleere said.

The drivers take students to football games, band contests and they try to take care of whatever extracurricular groups request.

“We have a few coaches available to drive. Our policy is that they can only drive basically what we would consider a local trip, so here to Midland would be the longest they would be able to drive,” Cleere said.

The buses have spots for students with three seatbelts. A regular bus can hold 71 passengers, which works for elementary school children.

For secondary, Cleere said it’s usually 55 to 60 students in middle and high school.

Under state law, he said, no one can sit on the floor. Everyone has to have a seat.

Monica Tschauner, director of the convention and visitors bureau at the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, is on the Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Council formed after the passage of the tax ratification election to ensure that funds from the election were appropriated correctly.

“I think it’s wonderful, obviously because of the safety of the kids. You’ve got newer buses with less problems and they have the safety belts,” Tschauner said.

She said the new buses are important to the children and the parents. They also are safer and at this point have fewer miles on them.

“You have less potential problems with the newer vehicles. I just think it’s a win-win for everybody,” Tschauner said

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