According to the popular children’s song, "the wheels on the bus go round and round." In Hannibal, the wheels on buses belonging to the public school district went "round and round" considerably less during the 2015-16 school year, helping net a $70,000 savings in fuel costs.
According to information provided by Rich Stilley, school district business manager, 47,385 gallons of diesel fuel were purchased last school year. That represents a reduction of 11.99 percent in fuel consumed from 2014-15.
Also notable is the fact the district’s bus fleet was driven 346,277 miles in 2015-16. That total amounts to 18,072 fewer miles driven than the year previous.
Stilley is quick to agree that the 4.9 percent cut in miles driven was a driving force behind the decrease in fuel burned by the bus fleet.
"It was a huge factor," he said. "Buses average 7.5 miles per gallon. The reduction in miles driven saved us around 2,400 gallons of fuel alone."
Stilley explains the reduction in miles driven was due to multiple reasons.
"The rerouting of several routes for greater efficiency and fewer trips are the major contributing factors," he said.
Fuel usage was not just impacted by a cut in miles driven. A new bus idling policy was also implemented in 2015-16.
"Buses are shut off when we are waiting and not actively loading students at each building," explained Stilley.
Did the amount of savings resulting from the new policy come as a surprise?
"Somewhat," said Stilley. "Our Transportation Director, Brent Meyer, did a great job in researching this program and we thought it would produce a savings. It was a very pleasant surprise!"
Also benefitting the school district’s transportation budget was last year’s drop in the per gallon price of fuel. Stilley said last year’s average of $1.53 per gallon represented a savings of 35.98 percent over the previous year’s average per gallon cost.
Stilley added that the school district saw a 43.38 percent savings in actual fuel costs in 2015-16 over 2014-15. That translates into a savings of roughly $70,000 last school year.
The size of last year’s savings was not unexpected.
"We honestly looked at every purchase and monitored the budget very closely. We knew exactly how much money was available in each budget line item," said Stilley.
Coming at a time when the school district was literally watching every nickel and dime it spent, the $70,000 savings was appreciated.
"It was huge," said Stilley.
Last year’s savings could not be used to help cushion this year’s transportation budget, explained Stilley.
"The funds cannot be rolled over into this school year’s budget," he said. "But, the monies did positively impact the end-of-year balances that we needed to increase."
With the 2016-17 school year already underway, Stilley is not predicting another reduction of 18,000 miles driven.
"We are always looking for ways to do things better, smarter and more efficiently. However, another 18,000 miles would be tough to realize," he said.
And while another 12 percent reduction in diesel usage is unlikely, it won’t be from a lack of effort.
"We are striving to make the best decisions that could impact the overall costs to the district but not impact the services to our students and families. We are continually striving to make operational improvements," said Stilley.
Reach reporter Danny Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org