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Westport Buses Crank Up Maintenance in Winter

Cold weather and snow can take a toll on school buses. That's why at Westport Dattco, Branch Manager Alan Miller and his crew take extra steps to work to avoid weather-related problems, such as dead batteries and frozen brake lines.

Typically, bus drivers go into work for 6:15 a.m., Miller said. But when the mercury drops below freezing — or lower —drivers come in at about 5:30 a.m. to warm up their buses.

"We try to start [the buses] up early in order to run everything through, so nothing gets stiff," Miller said. "Like an old body that becomes stiffer with age, the only way to keeps things loose is by working them out."

Coming in early on cold winter days also allows drivers time to fix any problems they encounter. Although most are quick fixes, there are some that aren't, Miller said.

For example, sometimes the window defrosters go on the fritz. If that happens, that bus won't go out on its route. Heat from the bus alone isn't enough to clear the windows, and it can become a safety issue.

What happens if a bus isn't cleared for duty? If there's a free bus, the driver will simply take that one. However, if no bus is available, Miller said other drivers take on children from that route.

"But you have to be careful with that because you don't want to overload buses, either," Miller said.

The drivers also undergo monthly training that focuses on issues in specific times of the year, Miller added.

"During [winter], training is specific to dealing with icy road conditions, road visibility and ways keep the buses as visible as possible," he said. "Watching out for low hanging trees or wires as a result of snow or ice, and altering the way they drive are also covered."

Have you experienced any problems with school buses this winter? Tell us below.

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