By Iriz Guerrero
Bus maintenance is one of the most important components of a successful public transit agency. It allows agencies to maintain their buses operating optimally while controlling time and costs to ensure maximum efficiency. In addition, it helps to secure a reliable and satisfactory quality of transportation to riders. Poorly maintained buses can cause a costly process for agencies.
Bus maintenance includes key areas like mid-life overhauls, engine repowers and collisions that are often forgotten. They all play a major role when public transit agencies are planning and creating their maintenance programs. Transit agencies should be doing regular fleet assessments where they review maintenance logs, vehicle documentation and have regular communication with their maintenance staff. To ensure the most accurate calculation of the fleet life expectancy, all major components and systems must be reviewed. Some of the most critical are the structure and electrical areas because they are impactful and costly. Also, pay close attention to underbody structures because they are vulnerable to fatigue cracking and corrosion damage. Other recommended areas to inspect are safety systems, control systems and passenger comfort. A final consideration are the setbacks or benefits of incorporating modern technologies into your current fleet.
The fleet assessment will reveal single and multi- bus issues or concerns across the fleet. If buses are spending a lot of time in your service shop or there is many recurrent breakdowns, then there is a high chance that you are due for a mid-life overhaul. Mid-life overhauls are customized to the mechanical, body exterior and interior needs of each fleet. The main benefit of a mid-life overhaul is to increase the life of your bus, while saving your maintenance team time and money. The end result is improving reliability, safety and adding equipment upgrades. In addition, you don’t have to worry about it cutting into your operating budget because overhauls are excellent candidates for grants. Once an operator has completed an overhaul it is very important that they follow their preventative maintenance schedule and recommendations according to the OEM. This will allow the vehicles to continue running at optimal performance.
If you are not interested in doing a mid-life overhaul, operators can also do engine repowers. Engines are the hearts of your vehicle, your vehicle can’t perform optimally without a good engine. Engine repowers are ideal for older and/or failing engines. Instead of spending thousand of dollars on servicing or repairing engines, you can repower your fleet and gain many advantages. These advantages include improving reliability and performance, reducing fuel costs, emissions and noise level. CoachCrafters works closely with OEM manufacturers to create a repower kit developed expressly for the specifications of the various makes and models of OEM equipment and the associated components. These kits include all required parts to install a new engine into your bus. The labor hours needed to repower using the pre-engineered kit are significantly reduced. This returns the unit into the revenue stream faster and lowers labor costs.
Collisions are an unfortunate part of the business, but its important to be prepared if your bus is involved in an accident. One of the biggest risks for operators who attempt to conduct in house collision repair is underestimating the degree of the repair. Before operators begin a repair, they should make sure that they have the correct expertise and resources. This decision will be critical, because there is nothing worst than getting stuck mid-repair and slowing down other smaller repairs in your shop. Alternative propulsions have made collision repairs more complex because you have to consider how all the different systems work together. For example, when a CNG bus is involved in an accident it must receive a CNG inspection by a certified CNG technician. If you do not have technicians with the correct expertise and certifications, the repair may be drawn out and you may still end up having to outsource the repair to another shop. We recommend to do in house collisions when you are fully prepared to do the repair. It will save you the money of towing, mark up and labor. Operators can also save time with in-house repairs because you don’t have to wait for the bus to be delivered. Overall, it gives you more control of the total labor and parts of the repair.
Should you repair or replace a damaged vehicle? We get this question a lot from our customers. There are a few factors that you want to consider before making a decision. It will largely depend on the magnitude of the damage. The first thing that we recommend is to get the bus assessed for its current value. Then, make sure to get a detailed estimate and report from an experience collision shop. This will allow you to see the cost of the collision repair, and if there is any long-term effects like permanent frame damage.
We hope this valuable information allows operators to make more informed decisions when planning their maintenance programs. Don’t forget to plan for mid-life overhauls, repowers and collisions!
Iriz Guerrero is sales and marketing manager for CoachCrafters. CoachCrafters is happy to help and serve the public transportation industry. Please make sure to give us a call at 833-559-7679 with any of your specific maintenance needs, or visit www.coachcrafters.com for more information.