9039 Fairforest Road
South Carolina has resorted to buying old buses from Kentucky to keep its own aging fleet running – again.
The Department of Education announced Tuesday it won bids for 85 used buses from a collection of Kentucky school districts that were replacing theirs with new vehicles. The South Carolina department used money – spending an average of $3,826 per used bus – collected from scrapping the remains of buses already cannibalized for parts.
The Kentucky fleet averages 18 years old and will be used to retire South Carolina buses more than 26 years old. South Carolina’s education department bought 73 1992-model vehicles from Kentucky in 2005.
The state is looking to buy another 45 used buses before the start of the school year.
A new engine and transmission for dying school buses cost more than $5,700, agency transportation director Donald Tudor reported. Tudor said his agency has increased spending fivefold in the past seven years on rebuilds and replacement engines, transmissions and differentials.
The state’s General Assembly has not funded an annual replacement cycle for buses since 2008. South Carolina’s fleet is the oldest in the nation, according to a 2005 emissions study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Old buses are dirtier, the study said.
Half the state’s 700,000 children use buses to get to school and home again. This form of transportation has been found the safest for students, said Superintendent Jim Rex in a statement from the education department.
Next year’s education budget won’t be enough to cover student transportation the entire year, Rex said, unless diesel prices plunge. If funding runs out, Rex said, the agency will ask for an emergency appropriation or permission to operate at a deficit.