“The increase in fuel costs put a burden on us last year,” he said. “It impacted our budget more than anyone anticipated. However, we believe the total budgeted will be adequate for our bus fleet if the cost of fuel does not pass the $5 mark. All my fuel vendors don’t believe it will go higher than that number. If it goes to $5.10, the budget is blown.”
It takes about 15,000 gallons of fuel per month to run the 51 passenger and nine Special Ed buses. A bus averages about five or six miles per gallon, according to Moats. Buses transport 62 percent or about 4,500 students twice each day.
He said a catalyst additive was tried near the end of the past term. Results show that some of the vehicles are averaging up to seven miles per gallon, which Moats believes is a lot when considering the fact that the fleet traveled 444,240 miles during 2007-2008.
Moats anticipates the winter delivery of six new buses this year. The units will be equipped with digital cameras, air conditioning with seats placed six inches higher than those received in the past. Other features will include an additional luminator on the back, wigwag headlights and strobe lights.
Each bus in the current fleet has been “double checked” for safety and a new drive-through wash will keep each vehicle “sparkling clean”.
No major route changes will be made this term, and Janna Ruark, fleet coordinator, said no children could be transported out of school zone.
She said this is due, in part, to the increase in students who are choosing to ride the school bus. “Due to the cost of fuel at the pump, more parents are opting to let their children ride the bus. Our routes are designed for children that live in school zones or particular neighborhoods.”
Ruark said she is still receiving inquiries about routes from people moving into Polk, especially from Paulding and Bartow counties.
“Even with creative routing, we are now at capacity in our transportation of students.”
Although applications are still taken, she said there are enough drivers to fill immediate needs.
“We have nine people waiting for a route when one is available.”
The interior of the “bus barn” is also being refurbished.
“We want our drivers to be more comfortable when they are waiting for their buses,” Moats said.