Harry Steenbock, director of transportation for Hortonville Area School District (HASD) approached the Board of Education Monday, March 2 to request the purchase of two school buses.
Steenbock follows his plan to replace two buses each year. This provides the school district with consistent transportation costs, which aid in establishing budgets. To maintain an up-to-date fleet of safety vehicles, two or three buses replace buses with high mileage.
Thompson buses will replace the old Blue Bird buses. Blue Bird’s have the flat front end, making a rectangular silhouette. Upkeep, with scarcity of parts, is not economical. Maintenance on these flat fronted carriers is next to impossible.
“There is no room to work on them. You have to take half the engine apart to replace a simple part,” said mechanic Rich Rupple.
“We’ll go with Thompson because they have a full size chassis built by Freightliner,” Steenbock said. “They look like a truck, with the nose that houses the engine. This design allows mechanics room enough to replace a part.”
Steenbock said that parts are readily available and since many businesses carry them, the price stays competitive.
“Every time we purchase a new bus, it seems that safety designs advance,” Steenbock said. “Visibility for drivers, especially.”
Side mirrors angle so that the field of vision is increased and the blind spot decreases in size.
Steenbock reported that there are 67 buses covering the routes for the district. Transfer vans and trucks bring the total to 74. This fleet transfers nearly 3,000 children daily. Six-hundred thousand miles filled the charts on the 2014 transportation books.
The board approved the purchase of two Thompson Freightliner buses.
“The new transportation building benefits our busing system in countless ways,” Steenbock said. “One big thing is, the mechanics are on cloud nine with the new bus bay. They have room to work around the entire bus, and most especially on tires.”
Steenbock said that in the old building, space between buses and the walls was super tight and it was cumbersome to remove a tire. That added to mechanic injury and ineffective time on the clock.
“This is a no frills building, but we’re not here to impress anyone,” Steenbock said. “We’re here to keep these buses rolling along safely, so kids can count on us when they get picked up and let off.
“Sure, it is real nice to have new, insulated walls and controlled heat. That old office at the high school has done itself proud over the years. Classes and shop classes were in there, and lots of other educational.”
Drivers are all about safety. Steenbock said the biggest problem ‘bar none’ is handling the day-to-day changes of family addresses. Dropping children off at the correct driveway is imperative.
“There is not a driver in HASD who does not go out of their way for kids,” he said.
Some students get off on a driveway that is a quarter-mile long without visibility to the house. If no one is waiting at the bus stop, Steenbock said a driver hops on the phone and asks dispatch to call the home to insure someone is waiting for the child.
Steenbock added that there hasn’t been an instance, in the time he has been around busing, that a need was not there for drivers.
“It’s the same today as it was years ago,” he said.
He added it is a good part-time job for those who can work two hours or less in the morning and in the afternoon.
Steenbock addressed transportation committees twice at the recent State Administrators Convention in Madison.
“I gave a presentation that weighed the pros and cons of owning a fleet versus contracting buses,” Steenbock said.
Base costs for leased buses may increase with extras that come along. For now, Steenbock says HASD will continue to own its buses, controlling the quality and safety of well-maintained buses.