How school districts plan to keep buses warm overnight


ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Thursday night will most likely be the coldest night of the winter season thus far. Not only will temperatures be in the single digits but wind chills will drop below zero. Extra steps need to be taken so kids stay safe at the bus stop on Friday morning.

With frigid air in the forecast, there is always the question about whether the buses will start in the morning.

Mike Heyman, transportation director for the Rockwood School District, says that one night like this isn’t going to freeze up the school bus engine blocks. For that to be a problem, temperatures need to be consistently below 20 degrees for many nights in a row. Prolonged cold weather will eventually take its toll on the equipment.

On Thursday night, school bus engine warmers will be plugged in and will warm the engine blocks to 140 degrees on and off through the night. This makes it easier for the buses to start in the morning. It keeps the fluids thin and allows the engines to turn over faster, which is easier on the batteries. Heyman says these block heaters make a world of difference during the winter months and protect the buses to at least 40 degrees below zero.

What’s of a bigger concern for the morning is student safety.

“Our concern is not only making sure the buses will start,” Heyman said. “We want them to be warm when we start picking up students from cold bus stops. I want the buses to be warmed up for the kids.”

Parents also need to do their part by making sure their kids are dressed properly for the 10 to 15-minute wait they may have outside in subzero wind chills. Make sure your kids are dressed warmly; wearing gloves, hats, pants and winter coats. Heyman says that it sounds like common sense but he often sees kids getting on the bus in shorts during the winter.

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