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STN Fuel Survey: Schools Feeling Pinch From Rise in Prices PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 14 March 2011 00:00
A survey of more than 200 school districts reveals that rising fuel costs are affecting operations, including reductions in service at some districts.

According to the 221 transportation directors and supervisors who responded to the survey, which was originally sent to 1,555 for a return rate of 14 percent, fuel prices have jumped almost $1 a gallon for some. The increases, which have been tied to political and social unrest in Libya and the Middle East, are affecting close to 76 percent of the respondents. Although the idea of reducing school bus services was so far only being discussed at some districts, approximately 22 percent of the districts reported that the idea has already become a reality for them.

Other districts have found some options to price increases that will keep students on their buses. Oceanside (Calif.) Unified School District transferred general fund dollars to the transportation fuel budget to cover the spike in costs. Increased walking distances, cutting athletic and field trips, reduced repair funding, and staff reductions are some of the ways the increased fuel costs have impacted districts or promise to in the 2011-2012 school year.

In an effort to keep the above from happening everywhere, districts are employing fuel co-ops/consortiums, fuel hedging/fixed costs and negotiated fuel contracts. Charlie McAlister, transportation supervisor for Centennial School District in Portland, Ore., keeps his fleet running as efficiently as possible to help improve fuel usage.

“[We can’t] afford to buy newer, more fuel-efficient buses, so [we] have to pay the price they want for fuel or do without,” added McAlister.

Some districts keep a daily eye on fuel prices and jump at the chance to buy in bulk at lowered prices. Others, like Van Buren (Ark.) School District, get constant e-mails on prices from competing companies. Reducing idle time was another popular exercise in fuel efficiency for more than a handful districts. Last fall, Zonar Systems analyzed fleets nationwide and determined that the average school bus idles 13.5 hours per month. At $4 per gallon, that equates to $52 in wasted fuel per month.

Alternative fuels are another option that about 16 percent of the districts are utilizing to keep costs down. Biodiesel was the most popular option, with 50 percent of the initial 16 percent employing its use. CNG and propane came in second and third, with 35.3 and 32.4 percent, respectively. Surprisingly, the electric option came out over diesel hybrids, with close to 6 percent reporting its usage and no one responding that hybrids were being driven at their district.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 March 2011 08:32