Fleet Success Stories: Broward Schools

Bailey Nolting EV Information, Online Article

Broward County Schools is one of just a handful of Florida school districts that have started the transition to electric school buses. Florida Transportation Systems (FTS) and FPL, the electric utility serving the county, were integral partners in the school district’s decision to make the shift. At this time, the Broward Schools has taken delivery of 20 of the 60 electric school buses on order. FTS has worked with the district for many years as their supplier of propane school buses. However, three years ago when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced the state’s implementation of the VW EPA Settlement, FTS helped Broward Schools begin their consideration of electric buses. FPL played a major role in this project, since they provided the EV charging infrastructure for the school district. The utility is gradually electrifying the schools multiple bus depots, which are strategically located near the bus routes.

Tommy Fitzpatrick, Broward County Schools Fleet Manager is passionate about the project, and was proud to share their journey towards a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly future. “In the sprawling landscape of Broward County, a silent yet profound transformation is unfolding. As the Fleet Manager overseeing the vast school bus population of Broward County Schools, I’m proud to share our journey towards a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly future. The push towards Electric Vehicles (EVs) has gained significant momentum across Florida, and we at Broward County Schools are at the forefront of this change. Recognizing the environmental benefits and long-term cost efficiencies of EVs, we embarked on an ambitious project to integrate electric school buses into our fleet.

Our journey began with a phased approach. Out of our commitment to 60 electric school buses, we have successfully integrated 20 into our daily operations. These buses currently serve our shortest routes and have been met with positive feedback from both drivers and students. The quiet operation, reduced emissions, and smooth driving experience have been standout features, marking a promising start to our transition.

However, as with any pioneering initiative, there are challenges and learning curves. We are in the midst of setting up the necessary infrastructure for the remaining 40 buses. The dynamic nature of school routes, which can undergo changes at the start of each academic year, presents its own set of challenges. The demand on these buses can vary, and while they have been performing efficiently on shorter routes, the upcoming academic year will be a true test of their adaptability and resilience.

Yet, the initial success and the potential benefits of this transition keep us optimistic. The positive environmental impact, combined with the potential long-term cost savings, makes this a worthy investment for the future of our students and our planet. Broward County Schools is not just committed to excellence in education but is also dedicated to leading by example in sustainable practices. Our transition to electric school buses is a testament to this commitment. As we navigate the challenges and milestones of this journey, we remain steadfast in our vision of a greener, cleaner, and more sustainable future for our students and the broader Broward County community. We are excited about the road ahead and are confident that with continued support and innovation, the future of school transportation in Broward County is electric.”

Outputs and Outcomes

Broward Schools’ exposure to electric school buses has opened the doors to expanding the use of EVs to other areas, such as food service and other school functions that involve use of a vehicle. Community engagement has been positive, with a great deal of social media activity from parent organizations. Prior to deployment, the project team (FTS, FPL, Southeast Florida Clean Cities Coalition, and Broward Schools) held a four-day project launch with the drivers, technicians and transportation administrators. There was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and participation, with these internal stakeholders taking ownership of the project and valuing the contributions they have made to sustainability.

Best Practices & Lessons Learned

In addition to the training of school district personnel, a full day of first responder training was held at the City of Hollywood’s fire training facility. Southeast Florida Clean Cities Coalition facilitated the training and were vital to getting the municipalities and responders involved. The responders rotated between a classroom and outside, hands-on training. The classroom training provided an overview of the electric vehicle battery. During the hands-on component of the training, responders were able to climb on board and underneath the EV school buses to thoroughly examine engine mechanics and structural components and to field questions directly to the manufacturers.

“First responders must receive training to understand the new mechanical features of alternative fuel vehicles to ensure public safety in the event of an incident. This is especially important with school buses, since they are transporting young children. The Southeast Florida Clean Cities Coalition was able to coordinate this training in cooperation with its stakeholders.” according to Alisha Lopez, Coalition Director.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Tommy Fitzpatrick, Fleet Manager, Broward County Schools and Chris Rustman, FTS, for sharing their experiences; and, to Alisha Lopez, Southeast Florida Clean Cities Coalition Director for her support of this project and her efforts to secure training for school personnel and first responders.