Some 2-hour delays planned with buses, not students, in mind

Diesel engines, doors, stop arms must function

INDIANAPOLIS - School districts across Indiana announced two-hour delays for Tuesday morning ahead of the incoming arctic blast, which is expected to bring sub-zero wind chills.

Indianapolis temperatures on Tuesday morning are expected to be 2 degrees by 7 a.m. and only one degree warmer by 9 a.m.

View: School closings and delays

Hahn Altman, the transportation director for North West Hendricks School District, said the two-hour delay isn't about waiting for warmer temps -- it's about preparing the buses.

"The engine, since they are diesel engines, we plug them in every night make sure the engine block themselves is warmed up and stays warm," he said.

Altman said his maintenance crew has to worry about stop arms, doors, batteries, air systems and even the fuel freezing.

"We have diesel additives we can add to the fuel because the diesel fuel will gel up when it gets that cold," Altman explained.

In the rural school district, about 90 percent of the drivers, like Travis Newsom, keep their school bus at home.

"Pretty much you have to plan ahead and get up in time to get out here and get them started when it's going to be as cold out as tomorrow. You know, probably start them 45 minutes before I leave," said Newsom.

"But ultimately if it doesn't (start), then we get the call, and we have to run out to wherever that bus is and help get it started," Altman added.

Altman said the two-hour delay gives everyone involved extra time for this and allows him to start up the buses already on school grounds, run them for about 30 minutes, turn them off, take care of any problems and then send them on their way.
The delay also helps kids who have to walk down those long rural driveways and, hopefully, saves them from having to stand there waiting for buses that run into mechanical problems.

"If we're running behind, they could be standing out there for several minutes and with the wind factor, and all that, if gets really cold,” said Newsom.

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