Management & Operations

Bus fires ignite discussion at APTA workshop

Posted on January 1, 2005

Stepping up vehicle inspections is key to bus fire prevention, according to presenters at a recent American Public Transportation Association (APTA) workshop on bus fires. The workshop, held in November in Anaheim, Calif., was part of APTA’s 2004 Bus Equipment and Maintenance/Procurement and Materials Management conference. During the session, panelists David Burnett, maintenance manager for the San Diego Transit Corp. (SDT); John L. Stratford, senior vice president for Transmatic Inc.; and Joseph Peoples, eastern regional sales manager for Kidde Dual Spectrum, discussed causes of bus fires and steps for prevention. SDT’s maintenance department stepped up its inspections as part of its new fire prevention plan. “Approximately 10% of the fleet is inspected each night, which includes checking brake pads and hoses,” Burnett said. SDT’s maintenance team identified 17 items for its fire safety inspection checklist. Training is given to identify signs of fluid leaks, and emphasis is placed on brake overhauls. “Buses without fire suppression systems are equipped with fire extinguishers in the driver’s compartment,” he said. In addition, SDT reduced time between steam cleaning of engines from 6,000 to 5,000 miles. “This year we implemented an aggressive team-driven PM program,” Burnett said. The program, which includes three mechanics and a dedicated foreman, takes a bus out of service until problems found during inspections are fixed. An estimated 15% to 35% of all vehicle fires are due to electrical malfunction, Transmatic’s Stratford said. Potential sources of electrical fires include the ignition system, battery cables, signage and lighting. Peoples discussed the importance of fire suppression systems. “These systems help drivers focus on passenger safety and not on the fire,” he said. Suppression systems can use carbon-dioxide foam, water, dry chemicals or a shutdown formula. Currently, there is no federal legislation requiring fire protection systems on buses, Peoples said.

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