Public school districts as well as private school bus companies have employed these policies for decades, in which regular service intervals check for potential problems besides simply changing the oil and making sure the tire pressure is correct. But as the vehicles have evolved so, too, have the responsibilities of vehicle technicians. Today’s school buses utilize intricate computer programs to run virtually every function, from the engine to brakes to lighting. And the advent of GPS, routing and maintenance software has the capability to provide in depth vehicle diagnostics. This requires technicians to obtain advanced certifications from such organizations as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, which developed seven tests specific to school buses maintenance issues.
Just as paramount is ongoing training of both technicians and certified school bus inspectors. The National Association for Pupil Transportation holds a competition each year to select the nation’s best school bus professionals in these categories. The event also provides training on the latest mechanical issues related to school buses and networking opportunities for participants. NAPT also offers maintenance-specific courses as part of its professional development series.
Additionally, resources exist from at the bus OEM, dealer and product and service vendor levels, perhaps the best place to turn for technical expertise. The School Bus Manufacturers Technical Council at the National Association for State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services exists to advise school bus operators on the latest vehicle design and maintenance issues to increase student safety.
Most states also have at least one school transportation association that communicates news and trends provides training to its members. Several even have dedicated school bus maintance associations.