School bus retrofits and idle reduction
Toxic chemicals and fine particles in diesel emissions can trigger asthma, lung and heart problems, and are responsible for as many as 125,000 cancer cases nationwide.
Diesel fumes can be particularly harmful to children, who face heightened exposure to diesel exhaust from the self-polluting nature of buses with their large doors opening and closing, and the tendency of buses to idle during loading and unloading periods. Research has shown that students on school buses are exposed to 5 to 15 times the levels of particulate pollution than at nearby monitoring sites.The Harmful Effects of Vehicle Exhaust Project Green Fleet
The MPCA is a major partner of Clean Air Minnesota’s Project Green Fleet (PGF). Since it began in 2005, PGF has worked with school districts and school bus fleet operators to retrofit buses with Diesel Oxidation Catalysts and closed crankcase filtration systems.
With support from the MPCA and funding including $2.4 million from the state Legislature and additional federal and private assistance, PGF has made tremendous progress retrofitting Minnesota’s ‘legacy’ fleet - older buses that will remain on the road for many years. Highlights of PGF’s success through 2008 include:
- More than 3,144 school buses retrofitted (or in process) — that’s 78 percent of the legacy fleet of 4,000 buses in Minnesota!
- Estimated lifetime emission reductions of 14 tons of particulate matter (PM), 82 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), and 163 tons of hydrocarbons (HC).
- Thirty-seven school districts and two Head Start Programs participating by the end of 2008.
- Map of PGF progress through the end of 2011
In May 2002, Minnesota adopted legislation to protect the health and safety of children from harmful diesel bus emissions. This law calls for schools to reduce the unnecessary idling of school buses in front of schools, and reroute bus parking zones away from air-intake vents (or if necessary, relocate the air-intake vents).Minnesota state law regarding school bus idling (Minn. Stat. 123B.885)
The MPCA worked with the Sierra Club and other health-based organizations to provide resources to help your school protect students from diesel emissions. There are sample letters to help explain the idling law, posters and camera-ready signs for Clean Air Zones. While the Sierra Club effort is no longer active, Project Green Fleet, through their school bus retrofit program, continues to work with participating school districts to create and adopt idle reduction policies for their bus fleets.
Schools can begin with these simple steps to minimize children's exposure to harmful diesel emissions. By adopting a no-idling policy and redesigning bus parking zones, schools can protect the health of students.
- Implement a no-idling policy. Post "no idling" signs and alert bus drivers, parents and administrators that engines should be turned off when a bus (or any vehicle) is waiting, or parked. Buses generally do not need to idle, except in cold weather.
- Redesign bus parking zones. Move bus parking area away from school air intake vents and park buses at a diagonal to avoid front-to-back passing of emissions to help reduce students' exposure to emissions.
Beyond the mandate of the law, your school can reduce students' exposure to diesel emissions by good maintenance of your current bus fleet and investment in cleaner fuels and technologies, use of biodiesel, and the purchase of newer, cleaner buses, over the long term.
Handout "No Idling: Young Lungs at Work"
- Poster: No Idling: Young Lungs at Work
- Turn Off Your Engine: Clean Air Zone
- Signature Document
- Poster: Turn Off Your Engine: Kids Breathe Here
Sample "no idling" policySample School Board Policy
Sample newsletter articleSample Article for Parents/School Newsletters
- National Idling Reduction Network News
- Clean School Bus USA Idling reduction (U.S. EPA)
- Project Green Fleet
- Vehicle Exhaust
- Anti-Idling Vehicle Ordinance (Minneapolis)
For more information about school bus retrofits or idle reduction, contact Mark Sulzbach at 651-757-2770.