Since he began working for Edmond Public Schools 13 years ago, Transportation Supervisor Garrett Henson has seen a 30% increase in the number of buses used by the district. Regular maintenance on the fleet of 183 yellow buses and 61 other vehicles is a high priority in order to make sure they are safe.
“The buses really get worn down quickly because these are taxicab miles and not highway miles,” Henson said. “There is always a lot of work to do around here,” he noted.
Regular maintenance is not an area where corners can be cut, but repairs are expensive which is why Henson has taken it upon himself to research, write and submit grants that will help the district stretch its transportation maintenance budget. To date, his efforts have resulted in the district being awarded two grants totaling nearly half a million dollars.
“This investment will definitely help,” he said.
Through the Diesel Emissions Reductions Act of 2010, the two grants allow the transportation department to either buy new buses at a reduced cost or retrofit older buses. Many of the diesel-fueled buses that are being retired have upwards of 180,000 miles on them, but will be replaced with buses with gasoline engines. This results in cleaner emissions and a quieter ride for drivers, Henson said.
The grant also requires that bus drivers not leave the engines idling for more than 5 minutes. This will save the district a lot on fuel as well, and alleviate the higher levels of maintenance that older buses require, explained Henson.
Transportation Director Kenny Chamlee said Henson has saved the district tens of thousands of dollars to keep the fleet updated.
“Garrett is a tremendous asset to our district and the type of employee that everybody would want,” said Chamlee. “He makes sure every dollar is well spent.”
While each grant takes many hours to complete, Henson says it’s worth it to ensure that the 10,000 children who ride the bus daily in Edmond feel secure and comfortable during their journey to and from school.
“You are making sure that children are getting back and forth to school safely,” Henson said. “We take that very seriously.”