After the equivalent of running around the earth 13 times, braving temperatures from minus to plus 30, breathing gritty air and sloshing through mini-lakes of salted water, you’d be forgiven for wanting a restorative break too.
Those are the conditions that the City’s 1,000 buses endure year in and year out. They’re built tough, but not so tough that they don’t need care and attention at roughly the 10-year/500,000 kilometer point in their service life.
Without Fleet Services’ midlife bus refurbishment program, our buses would last only about 12 years. But after Fleet’s body and mechanical technicians are finished, the service life of a $450,000 bus is pushed toward the 20-year mark.
“The ‘refurb’ program is just another smart way the City does business, investing a little over $100,000 to avoid paying out $450,000 for a replacement bus,” says Tom Lesick, a Fleet Services supervisor.
Each year, Fleet performs ‘makeovers’ on about 50 buses, thereby delaying over $20 million in replacement bus purchases.
At Fleet’s Ellerslie Facility, you’ll find a dozen buses on hydraulic lifts, their sheet metal sides stripped off and two auto body technicians busy cutting out and replacing rusted steel structural beams.
The body portion of refurbishment requires 450 person-hours of labour, including replacement of rusted structural support beams and rotted plywood underflooring, repair of exterior body damage, cutting and fitting new sheet metal side panels, resealing windows and applying final coats of paint.
The 25-person body crew is an efficient team, says Body Foreman James Burroughs. “We’ve recently made significant changes so we could work smarter. We’re proud to have an engaged workforce that communicates well and shares in our goals.”
As a result, he says, City staff perform the body side of a refurbishment for significantly less money than the private sector can.
The other main components of the refurbishment program are engines and transmissions.
At around 500,000 kilometers, Fleet’s Patterson Garage heavy equipment technicians analyse a bus’s service history and perform a series of diagnostic tests, says supervisor Gabrielle Caouette. Decisions are made as to whether to do major repairs on the original engine, or to replace it. If the transmission has more than 500,000 kilometers on it, it’s a serious contender for replacement.
Each engine requires close to 90 hours of work by one of the program’s nine heavy equipment technicians. About a quarter of buses whose engines are repaired or replaced also require transmission replacement.