While we all know that a school bus is the safest means of commute for children today, there is also no denying the fact that diesel emissions are putting their health at risk.
WHO has already classified diesel exhaust as carcinogenic to humans, so it is all more critical to look at every possible way, we can safeguard vulnerable school going children from these toxic fumes:
1.Reduce School Bus Idling:
The various exhaust fumes such as Carbon Monoxide, Hydro Carbons and Nitrogen Oxides, as well as Particulate Matter increase when the engine is running on a stationary vehicle.
These then enter the vehicle as doors open, creating a cloud of pollutants around the children, putting them at high risk for lung related diseases. It is hence important to set up and enforce stringent idling policies with drivers and school authorities:
Turn off engines at loading / unloading stops.
Use alternate methods to warm up the engine and passenger area.
Employ batteries to display the flashing lights.
Clear pathways and reduce waiting time at parking lots.
2.Employ Smarter Driving Practices:
With the help of GPS and connected telematics, ensure that the risk to children inside the vehicle is minimized:
Ensure an optimal selection of routes and vehicles, such that commuting time for kids is reduced.
Use newer, more compliant buses for longer routes.
Avoid traffic laden / unsafe roads, keep a safe distance from other gas spewing vehicles in front.
3.Adhere to regular servicing and maintenance schedules.
Conduct periodic checks on the engine to ensure that any build up is promptly cleaned.
4.Minimize Outside-Bus Exposure:
Children waiting at the bus stops and school gates are even more at risk because they are subject to harmful emissions from multiple vehicles.
Track school buses in real time and send out push notifications to parents, children and teachers on the expected time of arrival (ETA), so that children can simply be at the stop in time.
Traffic congestion near the schools is always a problem, as children arrive and leave in buses as well as cars all at the same spot. This problem can be greatly reduced by creating separate pedestrian routes, separate pick up/ drop off points for buses and cars, and staggered timings wherever possible.
5.Replace/ Retrofit old vehicles:
As emission norms become more and more stringent, newer vehicles come with greater controls and more advanced engines to ensure that emissions are within the norms.
However older vehicles may still be plying on the roads. Wherever possible, the older vehicles could be fitted with various emission reduction components such as PM filters and Diesel Oxidation Catalysts, to greatly reduce their emissions.
6.Choose cleaner fuels:
In the wake of increasing diesel prices as well as health risks, many countries have been looking at ways to reduce their dependence on traditional fossil fuels.
In the past couple of decades, a host of cleaner and greener alternative fuel technologies have surfaced, and these are in various stages of research, evaluation and implementation for school buses across the globe:
Clean Diesel Technology:
Ultra-Low Sulphur Diesel (ULSD) is the new and clean diesel, having 97% less Sulphur than the original, which ensures a dramatic decrease in Sulphur dioxide emission – the soot causing factor.
Adoption of ULSD has further led to the development of advanced engines that are cleaner and quieter, with electronic controls and better configuration of combustion chamber.
Additionally, many emission control devices can now be used to greatly reduce toxic emissions, such as DPF (particulate filters), DOC (Diesel Oxidation Catalysts), Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) etc.
The advanced engines are then also able to run on more efficient biomass fuels such as Biodiesel – a vegetable and animal fat-based fuel, and Renewable Diesel – a cleaner, higher quality and more stable variant.
Compressed Natural Gas:
It is the cleanest of fossil fuels, releasing very small quantities of harmful compounds on combustion.
However, studies have shown that when compared with filter equipped ULSD buses, the buses running on CNG had lower NOx emissions, but higher hydro carbon and particulate matter emissions.
This also burns clean, with very little emissions, and serves as a bridge between electric buses and diesel buses
It has twice as much energy content as compared to CNG, and is more efficient as well.
These school buses are fueled by electric batteries, in combination with Diesel. Both work synergistically resulting in a much larger distance range for the vehicle without recharging, and a smaller, more efficient diesel engine with lower emissions.
This is naturally the cleanest, with zero tail pipe emissions.
Although the most expensive to make and set up, Battery Electric school buses are being extensively proto-typed around the world.
Their life cycle global warming emission levels are stated to be less than half that of diesel-powered buses.
Some countries are making use of wind and solar power to charge the batteries, making their carbon print even smaller.
In conclusion, while many more considerations may be involved in choosing the right fuel technology, there is a lot that can be done in terms of better management of existing school buses.
A school bus tracking system automates and optimizes the routing and scheduling process in real time, and enables the monitoring of vehicle emissions and driving practices, to ensure a safer, cleaner and healthier commute for the school children.