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Chapter 10
STUDENT TRANSPORTATION

This chapter reviews the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) student transportation function in five sections:

A. Organization and Staffing
B. Routing and Scheduling
C. Training and Safety
D. School Bus Maintenance
E. Outsourcing Student Transportation

D. SCHOOL BUS MAINTENANCE

The Transportation Department is responsible for maintaining the school bus fleet. The maintenance of general service vehicles is addressed in Chapter 5, Facilities Use and Management.

In 1998-99, the Transportation Department maintained an active school bus fleet of 380 buses (Exhibit 10-22). The average age of the school bus fleet was nine years.

Exhibit 10-22
Active Fleet Inventory By Model Year
1998-99
Year Total
1982 16
1983 145
1988 4
1990 4
1991 93
1994 55
1995 31
1997 1
1998 31
Total Fleet 380
Average Age in Years 9
Source: FWISD Transportation Department.

Exhibits 10-23 and 10-24 compare the relative age of the FWISD fleet with peer districts.

Exhibit 10-23
FWISD and Peer School District Regular Education Bus Fleet Age Distribution
1998-99
  Percentage of Regular Education Bus Fleet in Age Category
District 1 to 5 Years 5 to 10 Years 10 Years to
April 1, 1977
Prior To
April 1977
Dallas County 41.0% 27% 32% 0%
El Paso 55.0% 13% 32% 0%
Austin 4.07% 6% 47% 0%
Houston 20.0% 23% 57% 0%
Peer Average 40.0% 17% 43% 0%
Fort Worth 18.0% 25% 57% 0%
Source: TEA School Transportation Route Services Report 1998-99.

Exhibit 10-24
FWISD and Peer School District Special Education Bus Fleet Age Distribution
1998-99
  Percentage of Special Education Bus Fleet in Age Category
District 1 to 5 Years 5 to 10 Years 10 Years to
April 1, 1977
Prior To
April 1977
Dallas County 54% 36% 10% 0%
El Paso 21% 21% 58% 0%
Austin 30% 12% 59% 0%
Houston 47% 17% 36% 0%
Peer Average 38% 21% 41% 0%
Fort Worth 52% 29% 19% 0%
Source: TEA School Transportation Route Services Report 1998-99.

School bus maintenance is provided at Clark Field and Westside; 294 vehicles are assigned to Clark Field and 86 buses are assigned to Westside. The Clark Field maintenance facility has eight maintenance bays, a parts room, work areas and storage. One maintenance bay has a pit to allow mechanics to work under the bus to perform inspections. The bus parking lot is paved. The Westside facility has two maintenance bays and a parts room. The bus parking lot surface is not paved. The lot supervisor and lead mechanic said the parking lot is near capacity.

The FWISD Budget director was able to provide the budget for bus replacements since 1996-97. Besides the most recent purchase of 161 buses for $9.2 million July 2000, the only expenditure for new buses was in 1997-98 in the amount of $113,600.

The fueling system is an automated gas card system and reports are printed each month on fueling activity for each bus. The odometer miles are reported on the fuel report.

FINDING

In 1999-2000, FWISD adopted a school bus replacement plan. The plan called for replacing one-third of all buses once every five years. In July 2000, FWISD purchased 161 new school buses at a cost of $9.2 million.

FWISD considered three plans for replacing school buses. Plan A replaced 26 buses (one-fifteenth of the fleet) every year beginning in 2000. According to FWISD records, Plan A would cost $1,690,000 annually to purchase 26 buses at $65,000 each. The advantage of Plan A was a regular annual procurement of new buses. The disadvantage of Plan A was that all buses more than 15 years old were not eliminated from the fleet until 2013.

Plan B was a lease-purchase plan to ensure no bus in the fleet was more than 15 years old. The lease term was assumed to be 5 years, and the interest rate was assumed to be 5 percent. According to FWISD records, Plan B would cost between $1,134,562 and $3,134,067 annually including vehicle and finance costs. The larger amount begins in 2016 and is due to the cumulative effect of new lease-purchase agreements each year. The advantages of Plan B were to replace all buses more than 15 years old immediately and then to retire any bus that reached 15 years of service. The disadvantages of Plan B were an erratic procurement plan (only the buses 15 years of age were replaced each year) and the cost of financing the lease-purchase of buses.

Plan C was a lease-purchase plan to replace one-third of all school buses (127 buses) once every five years. The lease term for Plan C was also assumed to be 5 years, and the interest rate was assumed to be 5 percent. According to FWISD records, Plan C would cost $1,906,697 annually. Plan C replaces all buses over 15 years of age by 2005. The advantage of Plan C was to replace older buses sooner than 2013 as provide in Plan A and to reduce annual debt financing by incurring new debt only as old debt was retired (every five years).

FWISD adopted Plan C. The plan called for FWISD to immediately replace 127 of the 161 buses in the fleet purchased in 1982 or 1983. The remaining 34 older school buses would remain in service until 2005. However, in July 2000, the district identified sufficient funds to replace all of the 161 buses purchased in 1982 and 1983. Each new bus cost approximately $57,150 for a total cost of $9.2 million.

Although all buses older than 15 years will be replaced in 2000-2001, FWISD is still planning to follow Plan C to replace one-third of the school buses every five years. The disadvantage of Plan C is the purchase of large numbers of buses every five years, creating a significant increase in maintenance demand due to fleet campaigns. With the purchase of 161 new buses, 42 percent of all FWISD school buses were purchased in one year. Major preventive maintenance tasks will come due in the same year for almost one-half the fleet. If any fleet campaign is required for the new buses, 161 buses will have to be scheduled for service or repair.

The life of a school bus is generally accepted to be 10 years of service or 200,000 service miles. If the years of service is the only criterion for replacing buses, a bus would be replaced every 10 years. An average bus in the FWISD fleet operates 14,400 miles per year. If the miles of service is the only criterion for replacing buses, a bus would be retained in the active fleet for 14 years.

Other factors and the cost of maintenance should also be considered in establishing a district policy on replacement of buses. Not all buses operate the same number of miles each year. Some types of service (routes with many stops and many daily student riders) may cause more wear and tear on a bus. Many factors can affect the useful life of a school bus. FWISD does have an aggressive preventive maintenance program, so buses can be expected to provide a longer service life. The cost of maintenance per vehicle can also be monitored with VMIS software to determine when a vehicle should be replaced to save operating costs.

Recommendation 109:

Revise the fleet procurement plan to replace buses annually based on miles operated, years of service and cost of maintenance.

The buses to be replaced each year should be determined based on years of service, total miles operated, and the cost of maintenance. Some buses may be retired in 10 or 12 years, other buses may be kept in active service up to 18 years. The 161 buses purchased in 2000 should be replaced over at least six years, rather than in one year as provided in Plan C.

A fleet procurement plan to replace a similar number of vehicles every year based upon several criteria (age, miles and cost) can provide several advantages. New buses are introduced into the fleet each year. Annually the buses with the highest cost of maintenance can be replaced. Regular purchase of buses requires a smaller annual budget allocation rather than a large capital requirement every five years. A procurement contract can include a multi-year purchase of buses. The purchase of buses will save the cost of financing for a lease-purchase.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The director for Transportation revises the fleet procurement plan. June 2001
2. The associate superintendent of Non-instructional Services presents to the superintendent and board the proposed fleet procurement plan for approval. July 2001
3. The director for Budget reflects the fleet procurement plan in the capital budget. Fiscal 2001-02
4. The director of Transportation submits a request for purchase of eight school buses in July 2001. July 2001

FISCAL IMPACT

Purchasing eight buses the first year allows the district to replace all buses older than 10 years. Assuming each bus will cost $55,000 per Texas General Services' contract prices, the district's first-year costs are $440,000 ($55,000 per bus x 8 buses). The district could subsequently stay ahead of, or on par with, a 15-year replacement schedule by purchasing 23 buses each year thereafter at $1,265,000 annually ($55,000 per bus x 23 buses).

Recommendation 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
Revise the fleet procurement plan to replace buses annually based on miles operated, years of service and cost of maintenance. ($440,000) ($1,265,000) ($1,265,000) ($1,265,000) ($1,265,000)

FINDING

The Transportation Department's spare bus ratio is too small to adequately cover for the peak bus requirement. Spare buses cover for peak buses that are out of service due to maintenance or breakdowns. The industry accepted range for a spare ratio is 10 to 20 percent of the regularly scheduled peak buses. The factors affecting the spare bus ratio are fleet age, effectiveness of the maintenance program, climate, operating conditions and fleet mix.

The peak requirement for FWISD in 2000-01 is 353 buses. The district's total bus fleet is 380 buses. Twenty-seven buses are spares-a spare ratio of 7.7 percent. The fleet replacement plan calls for sale of the 161 of the oldest buses for salvage value once the new buses arrive.

When the 161 new buses arrive, FWISD will have a substantially new fleet. The new buses, however, are air-conditioned and will require additional inspection and repair hours for maintenance.

Recommendation 110:

Maintain a spare bus ratio of 15 percent.

A 15 percent spare ratio for 353 peak buses requires a total fleet of 406 buses. Twenty-six of the buses in the best mechanical condition should be kept to use as spares. The buses should be kept in the fleet until FWISD benefits from the reduction in peak bus requirements with improved route and schedule efficiencies discussed earlier in this chapter.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The manager of maintenance evaluates the fleet of older buses and determine which buses are the most appropriate to keep using as spares. June 2001
2. The director of Transportation recommends to the associate superintendent of Non-instructional Services that the 26 buses be included in the active bus fleet for the 2001-02 year. June 2001
3. The manager of maintenance and the director of Transportation schedule the 26 buses for sale as surplus as soon as the number of peak buses is reduced sufficiently to reduce the need for as many spares. August 2002

FISCAL IMPACT

This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources.

FINDING

The Transportation Department does not use an automated vehicle maintenance information system (VMIS). The department usesmanual procedures to track vehicle maintenance and inspection practices. All records for school bus maintenance are hard copy.

Southwest International Trucks Inc. provided the Transportation Department, at no cost, a desktop computer and the software for a parts inventory and service information system. The software can keep records of parts and labor by vehicle using a work order system. A representative of Southwest International Trucks Inc. said the value of the computer and software is $3,000. Installation and training will be provided without charge. The vendor and the maintenance manager are working together to find a time when the software can be installed. The vendor is not providing computers for the maintenance shops or printers to print the work orders.

School buses are scheduled for a preventive maintenance inspection every 45 days. The maintenance manager has a printed calendar to schedule the inspections. The numbers of the buses to be inspected are written in the calendar block for each workday. The number of each bus is written on the calendar every 45 days on the appropriate workday.

The maintenance manager also monitors mileage reports on the monthly fuel system reports to schedule regular fluid changes. The goal is to change fluids in gasoline vehicles every 4,000 miles and in diesel buses every 6,000 miles.

FWISD buses averaged 14,400 miles in 1998-99. The 45-day preventive maintenance schedule calls for an inspection eight times per year. The average gasoline bus is scheduled for fluid checks three or four times per year, or about every other preventive maintenance inspection. The average diesel bus is scheduled for fluid checks two or three times per year, or about every third preventive maintenance inspection.

All maintenance work is documented on a series of forms. Each repair is recorded on a work order. The maintenance manager uses the calendar and the mileage intervals to ensure all buses are inspected on a regular cycle. All preventive maintenance and repairs are recorded on hand-prepared work orders. The work orders include documentation of labor and parts. The hard copies are filed in a folder for each bus that is designated as the bus history file.

Bus drivers inspect buses daily and promptly follow up on any problems found. A bus inspection check sheet is maintained in each bus and drivers are required to conduct pre-trip inspections. The driver delivers the check sheet to maintenance if any problem is found. The manager of maintenance or lead mechanic assigns a work order to a mechanic. The work order stays with the mechanic until all repairs are completed. Most repairs are completed the same day.

Drivers who participated in a focus group discussion with TSPR reported a high level of confidence in the quality of school bus maintenance. The drivers said repairs are made promptly, and buses are in safe working condition.

The manager of maintenance also tracks fuel use by school bus. Buses are fueled at Clark Field and Westside. The Transportation Department uses an automated fuel management system with gas cards to track fuel use for each bus. Fuel use is reported by bus in a monthly printout.

Recommendation 111:

Purchase equipment to implement a VMIS system to schedule preventive maintenance inspections, track vehicle maintenance records, analyze vehicle maintenance costs and monitor warranty on new vehicles.

A VMIS system provides maintenance personnel with a way of quickly getting information on the fleet.The Transportation Department installs the vendor supplied software. Once a VMIS is implemented, the manager of maintenance should regularly review the VMIS reports to track and evaluate cost, labor hours expended, warranty repairs and parts usage.

Mechanics should enter data from each work order in progress each day. The VMIS data should be available to the mechanics to pull information such as daily reports for vehicles that are due for inspection or the maintenance history of a specific vehicle.

The data from the fuel management system can be incorporated into the VMIS database to help track fuel use and inspection intervals based on miles per bus.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The manager of maintenance and lead drivers receive training and learn the features of the software package available for VMIS system. June 2001
2. The director of Transportation prepares a request for computers and printers to implement a VMIS system. June 2001
3. The Informational Technology Department assists the vendor in providing adequate training for the manager of maintenance, the lead mechanics and the parts clerk. August 2001

FISCAL IMPACT

A one-time cost of $6,000 is estimated for the two computers and printers to be installed in each of the two maintenance shops at Clarke Field and Westside.

Recommendation 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
Purchase equipment to implement a VMIS system to schedule preventive maintenance inspections, track vehicle maintenance records and analyze vehicle maintenance cost. ($6,000) $0 $0 $0 $0

FINDING

There is no parts inventory management system at either Clark Field or Westside. The decision to order new parts is up to the judgment of the parts clerk. There is no procedure in place to determine if a particular supply is low other than visual inspection and an estimation of how often the part is used. To help manage the inventory, the parts clerk at Westside created a personal spreadsheet file to avoid looking up information on the paper hard copies.

Without an inventory management system, the Transportation Department does not know the value of the stock in the parts room. The parts that are used are recorded on each work order. The parts clerk does not have a way to track parts, quantities used and cost. The FWISD provided a budget report for Transportation that listed an expense of $585,052 for "Other Supplies/Maintenance."

Some public agencies contract parts supply and inventory management to a private business. Some of these agencies include the Virginia Department of Transportation; the City of Richmond, Virginia: the City of Cary, North Carolina: the City of Savannah, Georgia; and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

Mecklenburg County's Fleet Management Department contracts its parts supply and inventory management to NAPA General Services Division. As part of the contract, NAPA opened a retail outlet in the Fleet Management Department that operates like a regular NAPA store. NAPA owns the parts, provides NAPA employees to operate the outlet and treats the Fleet Management Department mechanics as customers. Mecklenburg County identified many benefits to privatizing parts supply and inventory management. The County no longer deals with 78 individual vendors; NAPA is the single vendor. The number of purchase orders for parts was 400 a month. Now NAPA stocks 90 percent of the parts the county needs and provides parts not in stock within 24 hours. As a result, repairs are never held up due to lack of parts. Because NAPA is responsible for supplying the stock, the Fleet Management Department employees no longer need to take the time to drive to vendors to pick up parts, saving non-productive time for mechanics. Other services by a private company can include disposal of tires, batteries, motor oil and other fluids and materials and tracking parts warranties. The director of Fleet Management for Mecklenburg County said the parts supply and inventory management contract has saved the county $160,000 in lower administrative costs.

Dallas ISD awarded a contract to NAPA to establish a retail outlet in the Fleet Maintenance department. The retail outlet opened the second week of November 2000. The director of Environmental Services for Dallas ISD, who is responsible for fleet maintenance, said the program is working well, and they are able to get the parts they need for school buses. The director of Environmental Services said NAPA has set up agreements with suppliers of proprietary parts and is able to get some of these parts at lower cost since NAPA has buying power and can pay for the parts within 30 days.

Privatization saves money on parts. A 30 percent markup more than wholesale is typical when parts are purchased in competitive bid bulk purchase. A 100-percent markup more than wholesale is typical when parts are purchased retail over the counter using an emergency purchase order. A sample NAPA contract calls for 10 percent markup plus the cost of overhead to provide a parts clerk.

Recommendation 112:

Investigate outsourcing parts supply and inventory management.

FWISD should contact the Virginia Department of Transportation, the City of Richmond, the City of Cary, the City of Savannah, Mecklenburg County, or Dallas ISD to learn about their retail parts contracts and to determine the feasibility of outsourcing the parts management function at FWISD.

FWISD should prepare a request for proposals (RFP) and ask private vendors to demonstrate if privatization could reduce costs and meet other objectives of the district to improve inventory management. FWISD should obtain examples of RFPs for privatizing parts supply and inventory management from the public agencies listed above. FWISD should use these RFPs as models to draft a scope of services for the RFP. Some of the services can include the following:

  • Supply parts
  • Provide inventory management and control
  • Research parts
  • Inspect parts and track warranty
  • Assume responsibility for organization and security of the parts room
  • Provide software to record each part issued by work order and vehicle for the VMIS record
  • Staff the parts room during all hours mechanics are on duty

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1.The manager of maintenance for Transportation, the manager of the warehouse for Facilities and the associate superintendent of Non-instructional Services contact the public agencies listed above to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of the retail parts outlet. June 2001
2. The associate superintendent of Non-instructional Services and the director of Procurement determine discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a retail parts outlet for FWISD Transportation and Facilities. June 2001
3. The associate superintendent of Non-instructional Services prepares a RFP with the assistance of the director of Procurement and other department directors as appropriate. Selection criteria and evaluation methodology are defined. July 2001
4. The superintendent obtains approval from the school board to issue the RFP. September 2001
5. The director of Procurement issues the RFP. September 2001
6. The director of Procurement receives proposals from vendors. November 2001
7. The manager of maintenance for Transportation, the manager of the warehouse for Facilities and the associate superintendent of Non-instructional Services evaluate proposals. November 2001
8. The manager of maintenance for Transportation, the manager of the warehouse for Facilities and the associate superintendent of Non-instructional Services conduct interviews of the qualified vendors. December 2001
9. The manager of maintenance for Transportation, the manager of the warehouse for Facilities and the associate superintendent of Non-instructional Services prepare an analysis of the proposal evaluation and interviews. December 2001
10. The superintendent presents the analysis of the various proposals and a recommendation for privatization of parts supply and inventory management to the school board. January 2002

FISCAL IMPACT

FWISD would experience savings through a reduced markup above wholesale on the purchase of parts. The retail markup more than wholesale on the purchase of parts is conservatively estimated to be 30 percent. The outsourced markup on the purchase of parts is estimated at 10 percent plus a 2 percent allowance for overhead, for a total of 12 percent.

The value of the parts budgeted by FWISD was $450,000. With the 30 percent markup, FWISD pays $135,000 more than the cost of parts. With the 12 percent markup, FWISD would only pay $54,000, a savings of $81,000 per year.

Recommendation 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
Investigate outsourcing parts supply and inventory management. $0 $81,000 $81,000 $81,000 $81,000

FINDING

FWISD does not specify the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification as a condition of employment. The Transportation Department has an apprentice program for mechanic advancement to master mechanic. The apprentice program has four levels, beginning with minor repairs and oil changes at the lowest level and expanding to major repairs and glass and body work at the highest level. The maintenance manager provided a one-page description of the program. The apprentice level qualifications were simply a list of experiences required for each of four levels.

FWISD school mechanics do not receive comprehensive in-house training. The manager of maintenance said vehicle vendors supply any formal training the district mechanics receive. The director of Transportation said the Transportation Department started providing eight hours of training to mechanics at the first of the year.

ASE certification requires several steps. The candidate usually registers and takes one of more than 33 ASE exams. In 1997, ASE developed a series of eight School Bus Technician tests at the request of the National Association for Pupil Transportation. These exams cover diesel engines, the drive train, brakes, suspension and steering and electrical systems. After passing one or more exam and providing proof of two years of relevant work experience, the mechanic becomes an ASE-certified technician. Tests are conducted twice a year at more than 700 centers nationwide. Technicians must be re-certified every five years.

The ASE program is not a training program. ASE is a testing program that certifies the knowledge and skills a mechanic already possesses. To maintain ASE certification, a mechanic needs both initial and continued training.

The Texas Association of School Bus Technicians (TASBT) also just developed an annual safety inspection certification program for school bus vehicle inspections. The purpose of the program is to provide guidelines for school bus vehicle inspections through standardization. The TASBT program is not approved by the state. TASBT also offers a six-hour class on how to prepare for the ASE tests.

Recommendation 113:

Reward mechanics that achieve ASE certification.

FWISD should develop an incentive program to encourage mechanics to achieve ASE certification. FWISD should offer a pay bonus for mechanics who successfully complete the certification.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The director of Transportation recommends to the associate superintendent of Non-instructional Services that FWISD provide a bonus to mechanics who receive ASE certification. June 2001
2. The associate superintendent of Non-instructional Services recommends to the superintendent and School Board that FWISD provide a bonus for mechanics who receive ASE certification. July 2001
3. The superintendent authorizes the bonuses. August 2002
4. The mechanics are advised of this new opportunity to earn bonuses for ASE certification. September 2002

FISCAL IMPACT

The pay incentives are estimated at a $500 bonus for each course passed. The total cost is assumed to be $4,000 per mechanic ($500 per test x 8 ASE tests for school bus certification). In the first year, the estimate assumes that two mechanics take and pass two tests each for a total bonus of $2,000 ($500 x 2 tests x 2 mechanics). The second year, the first two mechanics take and pass an additional four tests each and two additional mechanics take and pass the first four tests for a total bonus of $8,000 ($500 x 4 tests x 4 mechanics). For every year thereafter the bonus will be $8,000.

Recommendation 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
Reward mechanics when they achieve ASE certification. ($2,000) ($8,000) ($8,000) ($8,000) ($8,000)