A fleet of First Student retired school buses parked on Kalifornsky Beach Road will soon take up much less space on a Seattle barge.
The vehicles, parked in the former Kenai River Nursery parking lot, were recently sold to Peninsula Scrap and Salvage. They were replaced by 2012 models that trickled in during the spring. Soon the buses will become training vehicles for Central Emergency Services and then they will be scrapped and baled into small, compact blocks.
Kenai Peninsula First Student manager, Rebecca Johnson, said many buses were pulled from service, retired and parked. “They have reached their years of service (limit),” Johnson said.
Although many buses were pulled from service, some that are five-years-old will still transport children to school in the fall.
“The majority out there are new buses. They are nice and new,” she said “We have a few of our fleet that are older.”
Tom Hyatt, area general manager for Alaska First Student, said the retired buses were sold to the salvage yard after they aged out. The typical life cycle for a school bus is 12 to 15 years, while a contract covers the span of five years.
“They still met safety concerns, they just no longer met contract age limitations,” he said.
A total of 71 new buses were bought to serve the Peninsula’s schools, including Homer and Seward. The new buses are 2012 Thomas Built Buses, a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North American LLC. The two models have a seating capacity of 81 and 90 students.
“We put new buses in every year generally,” he said.
Hyatt said the cost of the new fleet was built into the bid for Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
“Our current fleet meets all federal, state standards, as well as contract requirements,” he said.
Hyatt said some buses that aged-out of KPBSD contracts and were replaced by newer models. Others went to other school districts across the state.
“We don’t scrap every bus that comes out of contract,” he said. Hyatt said the cost of the new buses was a confidential matter, due to a negotiation with the dealer.
Hyatt said he is not sure what will happen to the retired buses.
“Once they are out of our name, title wise, then it is up to the purchaser what they do with them,” he said.
Kimber Smith, with Peninsula Scrap and Salvage, said the company purchased 57 aged-out school buses by weight and verbally agreed to only scrap the vehicles for liability purposes.
“We wanted to sell them, but they do not want us to,” Smith said.
Smith said in the next few months, the buses will be drained of fluids, the tires removed and then the task of scrapping the vehicle begins.
“It is a pretty serious process,” she said “We start on the roof and keep cutting.”
Once the bus is sheared into pieces it is then placed in the baler, which condenses the 7 tons of metal into 2-by-4-by-6 foot blocks, which will eventually be barged to Seattle. Smith said the process takes about four hours a bale.
“It is pretty quick,” she said.
Until their demise, the buses will be parked at the former Kenai River Nursery parking lot, a property owned by one of the Peninsula Scrap and Salvage owners.
“He just let us store them there,” Smith said.
While the buses are still intact, Smith said Peninsula Scrap and Salvage has loaned several buses to local fire departments and Central Emergency Services for training in school bus extrication.
“CES will be highly trained in getting kids out of those buses,” she said.
Lori Tyler, CES training officer, said the salvaged buses are great for training purposes.
Tyler said because buses are built differently than cars, they need to be cut differently when an emergency arises.
“They can be a bit of a challenge for us,” Tyler said.
A two-day University of Extrication Bus Rescue Seminar is scheduled for July in Soldotna and Homer for area responders to train on the salvaged buses. The presentation will provide fire, EMS and rescue with an overview of challenges that are present when a bus is involved in a fire or accident emergency.
The first day will be in a classroom with videos and slow motion footage, while the second day will be a hands-on event using hand and hydraulic tools in several scenarios.
“It is a great opportunity for us,” she said.
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org