School buses are an integral part of a child’s school life. They spent a considerable amount of time inside these buses for their commute. What if I told you that the time that they spent there was the most harmful minutes of their entire day? Yes, the very buses that make their school commute easy and comfortable have become a hazardous environment for them. This is because diesel exhaust contains highly hazardous particulate matter, which can be detrimental to your child’s physical and cognitive health.

According to some studies conducted in the US, the soot and other toxic gases emanating from a diesel bus can hamper a child’s brain development and have been linked with lower academic performance. Thus, diesel exhaust endangers children by gravely affecting their cognitive abilities. That was the cognitive part. The effects that it has on the physical well-being of the children are far worse and more tangible. Long exposure to these fumes can result in lung damage and respiratory diseases like asthma. Moreover, it is a known carcinogen, whose long exposure can lead to lung cancer and even exacerbate existing ailments. Other mild ailments that are associated with diesel exhaust are skin allergies and irritation in the eyes.

This particular situation is further worsened by the idling of the buses. This allows for these fumes to hover in and around the bus, which is responsible for the increased volume of these gases getting inhaled by the children. This happens even inside the school premises, usually when the buses prepare for departure. Because of this practice, these fumes can sometimes remain on the premises for the entire day, exposing the children to these poisonous gases for an extended period of time. Small children are the most affected by this as their lungs are not fully developed, which helps the particulate matter to easily accumulate in their lungs.

This is a very concerning issue as the majority of school buses run on diesel for economical purposes. The only way forward for the health of our students is to reduce this number and gradually phase out diesel school buses completely. This is by no means a simple task, but it is a very daunting activity considering the number of schools and school bus providers associated with them. But we have to tackle this problem at the earliest to prevent a bleak future for our children. Considering the urgency of the situation, the schools, transport providers, and the government should pay heed to it and provide other alternatives.

We can start by replacing the old diesel engines with new engines that run on clean diesel technology. Although that’s a good way to start, it’s just the bare minimum. CNG-powered buses are another option that’ll make a huge difference. But our best bet is to convert the entire school bus fleet into electric buses. This will solve the matter at hand and will also aid in eliminating the environmental hazards that these vehicles pose. This transformation cannot be materialised in a short period of time as it will require the complete overhaul of a school’s transportation fleet. This solution can only be materialised through heavy policy changes, funding, and smart planning from the government, among other things. Schools should also do their part and strive to change the status quo to ensure a healthy and sound school life for their students. They can start by enforcing a no-idling policy inside the school premises. This will at least improve the situation a tad bit. Further, proper training and knowledge should also be imparted to the drivers so that they know the negative impacts of idling and can learn to avoid it whenever possible.

Another thing that schools can do to reduce the emissions of diesel buses is to design optimal routes. These routes will help in reducing travel time and, thus, ensure lower fuel emissions. With smart school bus tracking applications like Loqqat, optimizing bus routes becomes a piece of cake. This application assists schools in planning and modifying their bus routes in a very efficient and seamless fashion.

One thing’s for sure, schools and government authorities need to act now to prevent the risks from manifesting before their eyes. Initially, it might require a giant investment, but in the long run, the choice that you make will reflect in your student’s health and in your school’s overall academic performance. So, the basic conclusion is pretty straightforward; electric buses are the most optimal solution for solving this problem, followed by CNG-powered vehicles coupled with route optimization software.