Michigan school buses go the 'extra miles' on biodiesel

By | November 20, 2009
School bus driver Linda Rogers remembers the winter days with thick, blue smoke fouling the air around the buses. Those were the days before her district switched to a B20 biodiesel blend.

"Since switching to biodiesel, it is much cleaner and smells much better," said Rogers, a 20-year veteran of St. Johns, Mich., public schools. "When fueling, you don't have the smell on your hands all day. Your clothes don't smell like diesel all day. It is a much better work environment and much healthier for the kids and the community."

The school district's switch to B20 in 2002 came from the persistence of Wayne Hettler, the St. Johns schools garage foreman and head mechanic. His foresight has led to a reported track record of bus longevity and reduced service needs, saving the school district money.

In October, "bus #14" rolled over 300,000 miles-the majority of them on B20. Hettler believes no other Michigan school bus used on a daily route has achieved this milestone. He attributes this longevity and its low maintenance costs to B20. The only unscheduled maintenance on bus #14 was a $160 lift pump and a $90 injector, according to Hettler. In addition, because biodiesel adds lubricity to the engines, St. Johns has extended the intervals between oil changes, cutting filter costs by more than half.

Fourteen of St. Johns' 28 buses have more than 200,000 miles, and total bus fleet mileage on B20 is far more than 3 million miles.

Hettler adds, "I think I'd have a revolt on my hands if we ever went away from the biodiesel. And, I know without a doubt that driver absenteeism has also gone down since we've fueled with B20. Using B20 has extended the life of our buses and saved our tax payers money without jeopardizing safety."
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