A number of school buses and smaller vehicles that transport disabled students will need to be replaced over the next several years, but the Brick Township school district received some of the highest marks statewide for its transportation program’s efficiency.
“Our minimum fleet size needs is 120,” said Don Wilson, the district’s transportation director. Right now, however, there are 114 usable buses, as some of the department’s vehicles have “timed out” under state rules that require student transport vehicles be retired after a certain number of years.
Wilson said there are 90, 54-passenger school buses in service, along with 29 small vans with handicap lifts and one six-passenger white van. The district operates three different types of school buses: a “transit type,” most similar to a city bus, with its engine in the rear; a transit type with its engine in the passenger compartment and a flat front; and a “conventional” school bus with the engine forward of the passenger compartment. Each have advantages and disadvantages, but despite how many students each bus can physically accommodate, state law dictates that no more than 55 students can ride a bus at the same time.
During the upcoming years, several buses will need to be replaced since they will time out under the state law, Wilson said.
- 2018-19: Five 54-passenger buses, 1 handicap van.
- 2019-20: Five 54-passenger buses, 2 handicap vans.
- 2020-21: Seven 54-passenger buses, 2 handicap vans.
- 2021-22: Nine 54-passenger buses, 3 handicap vans.
Buses range in price from $91,000 for a conventional bus that lasts 15 years, to $150,000 for a transit-style bus that lasts 20 years. Passenger vans with wheelchair lifts cost $74,498 on average.
Despite the need some some upgrades to the fleet, Brick taxpayers are getting among the best product for their money when it comes to school transportation, state rankings show.
Brick is within the third percentile when it comes to “utilizing assets available while providing the best service,” said Wilson. Out of New Jersey’s 413 school districts, Brick is ranked 12.
The district can be better served by ensuring the 120-bus service level is adhered to, however, said Wilson.
“Today, I ran out of buses and had to double up,” Wilson said at a Board of Education meeting last Thursday. “I needed one more bus and I didn’t have it.”
Also, he said, there are no spare handicap-accessible vans in the fleet.