School Bus Fleet

September 2014

A management & maintenance magazine for school transportation fleets

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41 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 4 • S C H O O L B U S F L E E T Think of Us as a Barrier to the Elements... ...That's why we design and fabricate to the highest standards, using the best quality materials available. uilt to Perform. Visit our website or call for information. 800-543-8222 Seat Covers Securements Fabricated Interior Parts OEM Quality... Because It Matters Supplier Council Member age of the cost savings. Savings are possible To be realistic, everyone who falls off a turnip truck may not be able to look at a map full of colored dots and see what I see, or fgure out how to rear- range them to reduce vehicle hours of service, ride times and everything that comes with it. But if you cannot, there are those who can — and with the right help, you can milk the last ounce of savings from a given situation if you're willing to bother. The frst step is recognizing the magnitude of what is possible. A pru- dent second step might be to try to see what you can accomplish on your own. From this article and the pre- vious installment, what is possible should be clear, as should be the ap- proach to effect it. If your school district is fnancially strapped, it's time to make the effort to do something about it. The tools for this have been available for de- cades, and the transportation systems I myself designed were not the frst to prove it. You can fnd far better examples of the dramatic differences between knowledge and ignorance in the es- say on my website ( titled "Principles of Paratransit Sys- tem Design," where knowledgeable demand-responsive systems in low- density areas have delivered nearly 10 times the effciency of ignorant ones in high-density areas. Changing school start times is a sig- nifcant step in the right direction, but it only scratches the surface, as this se- ries of articles will increasingly reveal. The next installment will address how you can apply these principles to optimize the tiers of service you may already be providing. But I have always felt that "sched- ulers are made, and dispatchers are born." In other words, while much of dispatching skill is God-given, much of what I have been able to accomplish can be learned. And I suspect that the school bus community is flled with individuals who can effect similar changes, even if not quite as dramatic as in the example above. A lot of the success depends on the variables at one's disposal. Frankly, the more poorly arranged (or unarranged) ones' existing variables are (refer to Part 1 of this series, March 2014, pg. 26), the greater are the opportunities to effect signifcant improvements. Re- gardless, someone with a good feel for organizing temporal and spatial vari- ables is likely going to be able to ac- complish a lot if given the latitude. Bringing in an expert can pay off The costs of bringing in a system de- sign expert for a couple of trips, plus the week or two it would take that expert to transform your system to a model of effciency (my effort took a single weekend) would likely pay for itself in the frst few months. Of course, your district would in- herit these savings forever. Also, once your operation had become more eff- cient, you would have learned the dy- namics of improving it and could like- ly improve it further, often with little or no outside help. The point is that savings of this mag- nitude are absolutely possible. Further, the affordability of making such chang- es is trivial compared to the payoffs: My frm, for example, would under- take such an effort for a school district — with possibilities for meaningful savings — for incidental costs (i.e., air, train or mileage and hotel costs) plus a percentage of the cost savings. In other words, your costs even with outside help would actual- ly be negative in the long run. And the risks would be minimal: No one who does not have the ability to ef- fect such savings would agree to per- form such an effort at practically no cost other than a moderate percent- Ned Einstein is a consul- tant and forensics expert in various transportation felds, including school bus, transit, paratransit and motorcoach. He welcomes comments, criticism and feedback. He can be reached at

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