As Chatham bus mechanics Robert Rafferty, William Cooley, and Walter Engle know, keeping our fleet of 50 school buses safe and ready to go often takes a little more than the regular maintenance they perform in our bus garage each day. If a bus experiences mechanical or other difficulties while out on the road, they respond to the scene to get it home safely, and when winter comes around, it’s they who keep our bus yard and access road behind the Middle School clear of the white stuff so that the buses are ready to head out on the roads when conditions allow (sorry kiddos). But when their old salt-spreader truck finally quit on them this year, and with the vehicle they use to service buses in the field getting long in the tooth itself, the bus garage was in need of some equipment upgrades to keep things rolling.
And why buy it when you can make it yourself?
The mechanics figured their aging bus service vehicle, itself a repurposed school bus that has been on the road with the District in one form or another since 1988, still had some service left in it – this time as their “new” salt spreader. It took a little vision and some body modifications, including opening up the roof, but with an hour here and an hour there of whatever spare time they could find, the three soon had securely fastened a fully-functional top-loading hopper and spreader in the back.
With the ’88 now ready for snow and ice duty, they turned their focus to a 1996 bus that was recently retired from the fleet. To this they added a heavy-duty pull bumper and hitch on the back, a push bumper and winch up front, heavier springs underneath, as well as spotlights and safety strobes (made from repurposed school bus caution lights) on the top. Inside they stripped out seats to make room for the welder, hot starter (jumper), air compressor, and other tools they use to tackle any problems a bus may encounter in the field. A coat of paint gave the old bus a new look (Panthers red & black, of course), and they were ready to roll.
Their efforts allowed the bus garage to replace two of its support vehicles at very little cost to our District. We are grateful to have talented mechanics like Wally, Bill, and Bob on the CCSD team – they prove a little ingenuity and initiative go a long way!