By Greg Smart
HUBER HEIGHTS — The Huber Heights City Schools recently took delivery of a new bus from Lion which sports a rust and corrosion-resistant composite body that is expected to save the district money in body repair costs and fuel costs. The bus replaces a 14-year-old bus in which the structural integrity was impacted by corrosion to the point that it would not pass the Ohio Highway Patrol inspection.
The bus is the first of its type to be delivered to a school district in southwest Ohio, according to HHCS Transportation Supervisor Bill Peck.
“Long term, it’s going to reduce or eliminate a lot of our overhead cost for rust, because that’s our biggest issue on school buses…,” said Peck. “This bus is made of a carbon fiber product which is guaranteed not to rust for 15 years…”
Peck said that the “beetle juice” and the salt that are being used on area roads “is so much more corrosive than what it’s been in the past.
“We’re seeing a lot of rust on these buses and spending a large amount of money, labor, and time repairing these and unfortunately, it’s the bodies that go out on these buses first before any mechanical or engine issues.” he said. “So, hopefully with this new type of a technology that they have out now, it will eliminate that.”
According to Peck, the 102 inch wide Lion body has a wider aisle at 18 inches compared to a normal width of 12 inches making it easier for students to get in and out, especially in case there was an emergency situation. The wider space helps also helps the students who wear a book bag and can reduce damage to the seats by book bags.
Peck said there is 20 percent better visibility for the drivers looking out the front windshield. According to Lion, “the 20 percent larger windshield and the most aggressive hood slope offer the best driver visibility of the industry.”
Peck said the bus has a Cummins engine and can be serviced at a Cummins dealership locally.
“We’re looking forward to that because we’ve had a lot of problems with the International engines here lately,” he said.
The bus has an Allison transmission, the same as on the International.
Peck said the body is a carbon-fiber type of material like tour buses have and meets all state regulations. He said that if a driver were to hit the side of the bus, on the bottom portion, there are sections or body skirts that can be removed and another section installed in a short period of time.
Peck said this bus will not only result in a savings for maintenance, but will result in better fuel economy as it is a lighter vehicle. The present buses may get six miles per gallon, while the Lion bus could get up to 11 mpg under perfect conditions. Peck said he would be happy with eight or nine mpg as that would result in significant savings.
Huber Heights City Schools Superintendent Susan Gunnell said that in recent years, the district has replaced the fuel tanks on five buses due to rust at an average cost of $2,200 each. She also said areas of rust are common in the door frames and the battery box.
According to Kellie Sears, Vice President of Bobby’s Truck and Bus Repair, the exclusive dealer for Lion in Ohio, Bedford was the first district in Ohio to purchase from Lion with three buses last year with two more on order. Fremont and Marion have received two buses each while Vanguard Sentinal Vocational School will receive one bus.
Sears said that Huber Heights has two additional buses that they will receive, one of which is handicap accessible. Sears said Huber Heights City Schools will be the first school in the U.S. to receive that model.
Gunnell confirmed that the two additional buses were ordered and expected to arrive soon.
“One bus is for students with disabilities and the second is a 72 passenger bus,” said Gunnell. “The handicap bus uses the same door lift mechanism as our other handicapped buses. The difference is in the composite exterior.”
Sears said the Lion bus features a lifetime warranty against corrosion. She said that the body, the roof, the stepwell, the battery box and the wheel wells are a composite material that carry a lifetime warranty.
Reach Greg Smart at 937-236-4990, ext. 2542 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.com.