Cassville school buses travel 300,000-plus miles per year

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

5 new buses to be rotated into the use in January

Cassville school buses travel about 300,000 general route miles every year, and for maintenance and safety concerns, the district routinely purchases new buses in three-year increments.

Richard Asbill, Cassville schools superintendent, said over the last 10 years, it has been a goal to update the bus fleet.

“We travel about 1,750 miles per day in general routes,” Asbill said. “However, there are also co-curricular, extra-curricular and athletic activity trips almost every day, with the exception of Sundays.”

According to Asbill, over the last several years, the school district has tried a lease-purchase option, which gives it the option of purchasing five buses, paying over a three-year period.

“That gives us a better tax flow option to capture those buses,” Asbill said. “Before, we would try to buy two buses one year, and the next year buy one bus. However, when other projects would come up unexpectedly, we would get off of that schedule.”

Asbill said this year. the school district had three bidders — Central State Bus Sales, Midwest Transit Equipment And Midwest Bus Sales.

Central State Bus Sales offers a Bluebird brand, Midwest Transit Equipment offers International, and Midwest Bus Sales offers Thomas.

“Those are three different bus types,” Asbill said. “Think of it like Ford, Dodge and Chevy.”

According to Asbill, when looking at bid specifications, all bidders are asked to bid on a particular type, or style of bus. Then the district looks at warranty, fuel tank options, seats, sound proofing and several other things that can be added by the school.

“Eighty percent of the bus items, are predetermined by state law,” Asbill said. “A bus can’t be sold in Missouri that doesn’t meet the Missouri school bus standards.”

Asbill said everything above the 80 percent would be additions that the school would want. For example, Cassville schools equip all of its school buses with a camera system with a co-pilot. The cameras face down the middle of the bus, also, there is a driver camera, that shows what the driver is doing, as well as a camera showing what is in front of the bus.

“So if a car passes, or doesn’t stop for a stop arm, we see that,” Asbill said. “Those are additional options that all our new buses need to match what we currently have.”

Central States Bus Sales bid $87,290 per bus; Midwest Transit Equipment bid $83,876 per bus; and Midwest Bus Sales bid $87,210 per bus.

“Out of the new bus pricing, Midwest Transit Equipment had the lowest per price bus,” Asbill said. “Then, in regard to the field of view, acoustics, cockpit design, maintenance and warranty information on each bus, we call other school district and say, ‘You have had this particular bus in service for a year, how has it been?’”

Asbill said another option the district has is offering five buses that would be trade-in to go against the purchase value.

“Each of those companies comes and looks at those old buses in regard to refurbishing and reselling those buses to other school districts as used buses,” Asbill said.

According to Asbill, after trade-in, Midwest Transit Equipment was the school districts selection at $409,480 for all five of the new buses.

“There are grants that come through school districts for buses, but those are not usually for the complete purchase of a bus,” Asbill said. “Those grants, can be used to pay for some retro fitting on the exhaust systems to help with emission reductions.

Asbill said there are occasionally federal grants for the complete purchase of a new bus. However, that pool of money goes rather quickly between all the districts in Missouri, and Cassville school district does not usually see a lot of full purchases grant options for buses.

“We have, however, had improvement or upgrades on some buses,” Asbill said, “We have had some of that cost covered by grants.”

According to Asbill, the funds used for this bus purchase come directly from the school district, through local money that the school uses for bus purchases, roof renovations, buying lights or drainage projects and scoreboards that will be replaced. They are all paid for out of the capital projects fund.

“All school districts in Missouri have that fund,” Asbill said. “There are four different funds for school districts in Missouri — general, teachers fund, debt-service fund and capital projects fund.”

Asbill said this is a large purchase for the school, and price-wise, it would be similar to a roof renovation, which could cost $200,000 to $400,000, depending on which roof it was.

“We bought 15 heating and air units for the high school,” Asbill said. “We have been installing those over the last two summers, and that was a similar purchase.”

Three years ago, Cassville made the same purchase of five buses, however, they were from a different vendor. This is the first time it has done business with Midwest Transit.

“We have a great bus barn,” Asbill said. “Our drivers are very good and they take good care of our buses. However, when we run the amount of miles we do on a daily basis, any time we can rotate in five new buses that makes for better maintenance, which provides more safety and better transportation options for our students.”

Asbill said the buses were ordered last week, and will be delivered near Jan. 5, 2019.

“When the new buses are received, we will rotate those buses into the fleet, on existing routes,” Asbill said. “The new buses are the ones who will go out first for trips. We want to make sure we put our best foot forward when traveling to different places.”

In addition to the 300,000 general route miles per year, Cassville schools travel 50,000 miles per year in what is referred to as trip miles, 5,500 miles per year for summer school trips and 17,000 miles per year for students with accessibility needs.

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