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5 things to know about NYS' emission-free school bus mandate

Newsday (Long Island) | by: Keshia Clukey

February 21, 2024 1:40 pm

The roadblocks

One of the largest hurdles facing districts and school bus contracting companies is the cost, as they look to replace their current fleets and set up the charging infrastructure for new emission-free buses.

Suffolk Transportation Services, the largest bus system in the county, which provides bus services to 22 school districts, has about 1,600 buses and vans. Of those, 11 are electric, said Thomas Smith, the company’s chief operating officer and president of the New York School Bus Contractors Association.

The company typically replaces about 10% of its fleet each year as the vehicles age, he told Newsday, but “2035 is a challenging date to convert your entire fleet by.” Diesel buses typically cost about $145,000 each, whereas electric buses are upward of $400,000 pretax, he said.

The cost of electricity to charge the vehicles during peak demand hours can be costly, and it can be difficult to access the power grid for some districts, Smith said.

There’s also battery life and route distances to consider.

Most of the districts Smith’s company operates in have short routes, but he said it can be challenging for rural schools with longer routes or if there was a longer school trip to the aquarium in Riverhead, for example. Some districts also use one bus to run multiple routes serving elementary, middle and high schools that have different start times, which would be difficult to do without time to charge in between.

Despite the challenges, Smith said he’s excited for the battery technology to continue to evolve and the overall cost of making the buses to decrease. “They are great buses. We’re enjoying the ones we operate,” he said.

Electric school buses from Logan Bus Co. Inc. provide transportation in parts of New York City and Long Island, with five electric buses in operation in New York City. Credit: Logan Bus Co. Inc.

School bus driver shortage and delayed routes persist

NEWS10 ABC | by: Giuliana Bruno

Posted: Apr 18, 2023 / 04:07 PM EDT

"Nicholas Vallone, Board President of New York School Bus Contractors Association, said replenishing the aging workforce could be made more difficult by the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in New York. It is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law, and younger interest in the drug may make matters harder for hiring.

“Every summer that comes and goes, we lose a portion of our older workforce to retirement,” Vallone said, “and right now, we do not see a healthy stream of younger individuals looking at this line of work.”

Still, both Vallone and Karam want to highlight not only the benefits of driving a school bus, like competitive pay, but also the fulfillment of impacting countless students’ lives."

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