All school buses go to heaven. Most have quite a few adventures left in them before they reach the salvage yard, though.
Shortly after rolling off an assembly line, school buses find their way to their new homes each summer. Most buses that begin their lives with Tyler Independent School district spend time traveling across the state.
They’re on the road before the sun comes up and, depending on the time of year, some of the buses aren’t put to bed until well after midnight during the heavily traveled sports seasons.
Director of Transportation John Baggert oversees a fleet of 130 buses, which are kept in top shape by bus shop supervisor Willie Bryant.
“I rotate quite a bit to maximize the efficiency of the buses over a 10-year period, and we dispose of them after 15 years,” Bryant said. “We want to keep them under 200,000 miles.”
After a few years, trip buses are moved to daily routes or special use, until they reach their 10th year. Upon 10 years of service, some of the buses will enjoy a more leisurely existence as backup vehicles, while others are torn apart and used for salvage.
“He does a good job of minimizing costs to the existing fleet by cannibalizing older buses,” Baggert said of Bryant.
In the corner of the massive shop sit an engine and transmission waiting for a new home. Technician Randy Burton said the shell of the bus has been donated to law enforcement, so the power train is set aside until it’s needed elsewhere.
The buses are easier to work on than standard-size vehicles, Burton said.
“Everything is just bigger and heavier,” he said.
It’s also simpler because the engine cavities of the buses allow plenty of room to work.
After their 15th year Bryant begins to prep the buses for new homes.
Cameras, GPS units and other usable parts are stripped away and the buses are either listed online or taken to auction.
In the past, buses have been snatched up for as little as $100.
In their second lives the buses will provide a wide variety of uses. Smaller districts may buy them, but they are just as likely to end up on a farm somewhere or turned into a storage unit or RV.
Some will go on to quieter lives, far removed from their days hauling around excited students before their final decommissioning at local scrap yards.