The Rockland County BOCES has been using two new wheelchair-accessible hybrid school buses to transport its two dozen or so students with disabilities and special needs in the new school year. At its Jesse J. Kaplan school program, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, said Rockland BOCES Spokesperson Stephanie Gouss.
“So far everybody is happy and the buses are running really well,” she said. Rockland BOCES Transportation Supervisor William Popkave added, “There hasn’t been anything wrong with the buses.”
Rockland BOCES found out in May that it was one of 11 school districts in upstate New York to win a NYSERDA award funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program to purchase alternative-fuel school buses. The NYSERDA grant covered the difference in cost between a hybrid bus and a standard school bus, so Rockland BOCES purchased two hybrids for the cost of one. The two new buses feature Azure Dynamics hybrid systems built on a Ford F-450 frame and a Collins NexBus body.
Gouss said the new hybrid electric buses are quicker, easier to use and less noisy when loading and unloading students via the wheelchair lift. The specially trained school bus drivers and monitors have noticed a difference in ease of operation compared to the standard buses.
“It takes little time to load and unload students,” Gouss said.
The school buses’ zero noise factor is a plus for those special needs students who are sensitive to loud noise. Gouss also noted that the electric engines emit less fumes than traditional engines, which is especially beneficial when the buses are stopped during the loading and unloading process.
“That’s a multiple benefit to the students, staff and to the environment,” said Gouss. “We haven’t hear any sighs or ‘oh dears’ — so far what we’ve heard is just pure happiness.”
While it may be too soon to determine how much money Rockland BOCES has saved in fuel with the new buses, it expects to save approximately 40 percent in fuel, 30 percent in maintenance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent when compared to traditional school buses.