The short answer – not well. While smaller transport modes like cars and bicycles can nimbly dodge these winter traps, large vehicles like garbage trucks, 18-wheelers, salt trucks, and buses cannot. Thankfully, the record ridership we’re seeing is taking more vehicles off the road as passengers opt for a shared ride.
Our area has seen heavy snowfalls and plummeting temperatures throughout this winter season and the roads reflect the numbers. Most roads around Champaign-Urbana are pocked, cracked, and demand vigilance.
“While buses, and every other vehicle on the road, do contribute to the wear and tear of our roads – we’re seeing a whole different aspect to the production of pot holes this year,” says Karl Gnadt Director of Market Development/Managing Director Designate. “The extreme temperatures we’ve experienced along with higher amounts of precipitation have really destroyed the pavement. In addition to that, the standards of the various infrastructures really come into play. Many roads in our community may meet minimum standards, but don’t meet what the environment demands.”
An Ode to the Leveling Valve
Operators are forced to stay on course when approaching a pothole for the safety of our passengers and surrounding traffic. Some may think our big buses and tires would easily roll over potholes, but that’s not always the case. The bus part that suffers the most in a pothole interaction is the leveling valve.
The leveling valves are responsible for leveling the bus. There are air bags on every corner of the bus and the air within them control many things including the brakes, doors, and driver’s seat. The leveling valves respond to the demand of their surroundings because they’re connected to the bus axles as well as the frame. As needed, the leveling valves release air from the air bags (as well as take air in) in order to keep the bus level with the axles.
But when a bus rolls into a pot hole, the wheel is forced down into the road but the body of the bus stays level. The leveling valve link, being connected to the axle and the body, is forced to go two directions at once. And because that’s impossible, it can snap. The leveling valve disconnects and air is released from the air bag. The bus is left with a serious limp and must be taken out of service.
Comes With the Territory
In most instances, the buses can be driven back to our Maintenance Department very slowly. Sometimes an MTD tow truck is required to haul the vehicle back. Either way a replacement vehicle is required and servicing must occur. If only the leveling valve needs replacement, service time is about 30 to 45 minutes.
“This time of year, we always keep extra leveling valves in stock,” says Dave Moore Maintenance Director. “We usually don’t have these issues until later in the winter season, but this year we’re up 25% of cases like this.”
Thanks to the area’s public works departments for getting the potholes filled. It is a major undertaking this season and added stress to the demand of snow removal and salting.
How do you think MTD is handling this treacherous winter? Are you riding the bus more this season?