Each year in the United States, school buses travel approximately four billion miles, providing transportation for more than 25 million American children five days a week. However, diesel exhaust from these buses has a negative impact on human health, especially for children who have a faster breathing rate than adults and whose lungs are not yet fully developed.
Part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mission includes assisting schools in getting new buses that are better for the environment, and the health of the children and drivers who use them. As part of this initiative, the Ohio EPA awarded the Bloom-Vernon Local School District with a Diesel Emission Reduction Grant (DERG), which allowed the school to purchase four new buses.
“We applied for the grant in December of 2015. It is a competitive grant with not only schools applying but organizations with tug-boats, locomotives, construction equipment, etc. The grant is only available to fleets in 38 select counties in Ohio, Scioto being one of those counties. As part of the grant process we had to create and submit a proposal which included data regarding the buses we desired to replace, plans for demolishing the buses being replaced, and calculations with the percentage of diesel emissions reductions the new buses would provide,” explained Assistant Principal, Adam Howe. “The goal of the grant is to reduce diesel emissions and create a cleaner, healthier environment as well as a safer bus ride and environment for our students, bus drivers, and community members. At first we received notification that we had not received the grant. A large factor in grants being awarded is based upon the amount of reduction in emissions. The applicants that are able to create the greatest reduction in emissions with the new equipment are awarded grants first. A few weeks after receiving notification that we had not received a grant I received a call from Carolyn Watkins with Ohio EPA. She said that they had received additional funds from the US EPA and offered us a grant.”
The grant covered 25 percent of the purchase price for the buses and from there, the order for the buses was placed. They were custom built based around the schools specifications.
While new buses must meet the EPA’s tougher emission standards, many older school buses continue to emit harmful diesel exhaust. The buses that were replaced were built between 1997 to 2000, and the new buses will cut back on emissions by 53 percent. As part of the grant the old buses will have to be destroyed so that they do not continue to create pollution.
“If we sell or give them away, then we’re not helping anybody. They’d still be on the road and we wouldn’t have accomplished the goal,” explained Howe. “Our school district is 84 square miles and we transport over 540 students approximately 1,230 miles daily, so above all else, we care about the health and safety of our kids and the drivers.”
The buses took to the road last Monday and according to Howe, each driver that received a new bus has been extremely pleased with their performance.
“Compared to the old bus, this is Heaven. They are Heaven sent, they’re very very nice,” said driver, Diana Toland. “There’s a major difference.”
In addition to releasing fewer emissions, the new buses turn better, ride smoother, are more comfortable and get better gas mileage with an estimated 4-7 miles per gallon more depending on the route.
It’s safe to say that the school plans to drive this buses ‘til the wheels fall off.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.