In a suburb of West Chicago, the Naperville Community Unit School District 203 transports 11,000 students to and from 37 schools each day with a fleet of 130 IC Bus products. Fleet Maintenance Manager Tom Pelletier relies on a process he calls “smart spec’ing” to make sure it all happens, rain, sleet, snow or shine.
Pelletier describes smart spec’ing as “including items on the bus that are going to make it easier to start buses, and easier for the drivers to get in and safely drive the buses.” That means the transportation department needed an original equipment manufacturer who could meet their spec requirements. When it came to being able to get the specific features he needed for his fleet, Pelletier found that “with IC Bus, we can spec out exactly what we want.”
The IC Bus feature that is the biggest asset in Pelletier’s eyes comes down to safety of the student passengers. “The number-one feature that these buses have is the door opening, which is larger than the other bus brands’,” says Pelletier. “If there was ever a problem on the bus, we want to make sure we can get those students off in a safe manner, as quickly as possible. With the door opening as wide as it is, I feel really comfortable that that can be accomplished.”
The comfort and safety of the driver is also a high priority for Pelletier and his transportation department. “We try to get a more comfortable seat for the driver,” he says of the department’s driver-centric features. “We get heated and remote-controlled mirrors so drivers can defrost and adjust them with the flip of a switch.” All of this can be done comfortably from the driver’s seat.
“The drivers are really, really impressed with the IC Buses,” Pelletier says. “They’re more driver-friendly. The roomy driver’s compartment allows for comfort as well as great visibility inside and outside of the bus. ” The features keep the drivers comfortable and productive, so they can focus more energy on transporting students safely.
During the long cold Chicago winters, it’s important that the transportation department’s fleet is able to reliably start up each morning. Part of Pelletier’s spec’ing process includes having a third battery, so that in winter months, when battery capacity is lower, they can be sure their buses will start. “We make sure we’re going to start,” says Pelletier. “And we don’t have to worry about it. We’re not scared that it’s going to get cold out.
“A few years back it was 13 below the entire weekend, and we were the only district in northern Illinois that went to school the following Monday because our buses started,” recalls Pelletier of his steadfast 100% IC Bus fleet. “We pride ourselves on that.”
Naperville 203’s relationship with local IC Bus dealer Midwest Transit is another reason that their fleet stays in service and on the roads. Pelletier’s department communicates with Midwest using a technology that keeps an inventory of parts needed, so each morning he can order a small batch of parts that he’ll use over the next few days.
“By noontime the same day I have those parts back to me,” says Pelletier. “We have a year warranty on the parts, and I feel really comfortable with it.”
While Naperville 203 does most of its own maintenance, Pelletier notes, “when there are issues I can call their service department and they’re more than willing to help out and get us going on the right track. Anything that we need it seems like they’re always right there to help out.”
Pelletier’s philosophy on bus spec’ing and repair comes down to efficiency. “You might pay a little bit more for it up front,” he explains. “But in the long run it saves a lot of labor. You get better-quality features and safety items.” Going the extra mile to ensure that his students are safe and his buses are rolling is a no-brainer for Pelletier, and IC Bus is right there with him.