UMA member Travel Kuz collaborated with a Massachusetts manufacturer to develop a sanitation solution to quickly disinfect school buses.
It began out of necessity when Pam Reipold couldn’t find foggers to disinfect buses after demand skyrocketed overnight in the spring.
Reipold, co-owner of the Gill, Massachusetts-based F.M. Kuzmeskus Inc., faced with the prospect of deep-cleaning buses every day, had an idea.
So she reached out to her friends at BETE Fog Nozzle, a local manufacturing company, to come up with an effective sanitation solution.
“I said, ‘You guys have any kind of fogging system that would work for us?’ Within a few days, their engineers were on the phone,” Reipold said.
Within a few months, she said the company “designed this really amazing system, and that’s what we’re installing in our school buses. From what I can gather, it’s the first in the country.”
BETE Fog Nozzle developed a disinfectant fog that can efficiently clean buses using a pressurized system.
“We don’t have to worry about under- or over-saturation,” Reipold said. “They designed and installed tiny little plastic nozzles, about the size of bottle caps. They’re strategically placed inside the bus. They’re designed to disperse a fine misted fog throughout the school bus. It’s done with high-pressure air. It completely fogs up school buses within three to five minutes.”
The sanitation solution of filling a bus with a cloud of disinfectant is much faster than manually cleaning each bus with spray and a cloth.
“Start to finish, if we went in and cleaned all of the hard surfaces and then disinfected the entire bus by hand, it would be between 30 and 45 minutes,” said Jonathan Harris, diesel technician at F.M. Kuzmeskus, told Western Mass News.
Reipold doesn’t think the technology is the right fit for her motorcoaches, which currently aren’t getting much use.
“There’s some technology out there for motorcoaches that’s pretty effective and efficient, and not super expensive either,” said Reipold. “This gets the inside of the school bus wet, and our coaches are way too beautiful and fancy to do something like that.”
She adds that the mist dries within a few moments, and the bus driver wipes down the vinyl seats and metal interior after every fogging.
Fast and safe
He added that the solution takes 15 to 20 minutes to dry, and only takes five minutes to kill germs. The chemical used is food safe.
Travel Kuz is fogging its fleet of 130 school buses twice a day.
“We’re doing them in the morning when the school buses come back from their morning routes, and then again in the afternoon when they get back there,” Reipold said. “It’s super because I don’t have to dress up my mechanics in PPE and have them physically walk through the buses. It’s all done externally. We just reel this cart over and hook up two buses at a time and turn it on. The employees stand outside the bus and never have to enter the vehicle.”
Grants pay for sanitation solution
The cost is about $7,500 for the cart system and less than $500 per bus for the distribution system of tubes and nozzles.
Fortunately, the school districts are picking up the tab for this extra level of cleaning.
“What was beautiful about it is our districts were able to find COVID money for this, whether it was MEMA grant money or the Cares Act money that they had,” Reipold said.
Local school officials said the new system provides extra peace of mind to their communities.
“It helps to build the confidence of not only parents, but also staff,” Brian Beck, Superintendent of the Gill-Montague Regional School District, told Western Mass News.
Rick Martin, Superintendent of Franklin County Technical School, added, “That’s an extra layer of trying to help our students feel safe and be healthy.”
Travel Kuz sees the potential to use the technology to combat other seasonal illnesses.
“We can use it to cut down on cold and flu,” technician Harris told the news station.
Travel Kuz was able to put this into operation quickly, thanks to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles’ Transportation Oversight Division.
“Our inspector was willing to just come in and do the testing,” Reipold said. “We all needed to work together to get things done during this time. Ordinarily, things can take months and months to get approved, but everybody needed to act fast so the buses could roll in the fall.”
Vermont quickly approved the cleaning method as well. Many of Travel Kuz’ school clients are in Vermont. Located in Western Massachusetts, the company sits near the border with Vermont and New Hampshire.
Reipold estimates product development took about three months, from April through July. The first bus install was in September.
The company has other protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They include allowing only one student per bench, opening windows for airflow, and requiring riders to wear masks.