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Alleged LCUB waste raises ire

A local school bus mechanic is concerned about Lenoir City Utilities Board work trucks left running near the bus lot off Fretz Road.

Eddie Henke said LCUB trucks have pulled into the vacant lot several times in recent months, often leaving their trucks running for hours, sometimes without anyone in them.

“It’s a little bit of a kick in the face,” Henke said, specifically mentioning LCUB’s “fuel surcharge” line item, passed down from TVA.

“I look at my electric bill, and I see this fuel charge added to it, which I guess comes from T-V-A, but if they weren’t sitting here running their trucks so much, they wouldn’t have to be ordering so much fuel … and make the consumer pay for it,” Henke said.

“It’s kind of ridiculous. Everybody is sitting here worrying about the fuel costs but yet L-C-U-B can sit here and run their trucks all day,” he added.

LCUB general manager Fred Nelson said, “That definitely should not be happening.”

“Our people are not supposed to leave our trucks unattended, let alone running.

“They’re supposed to be conserving as much fuel as possible,” he added.

Henke, as the mechanic for 22 school buses that are left in the bus lot, said he could never afford to leave school buses running unattended.

“When we have them running, they go out when they’re supposed to, and they come back and we shut them down,” Henke said.

He said his 84-passenger bus has a 100-gallon tank, and when gas prices were around $3 to $3.50, he was spending as much as $10,000 a month on gas for the buses.

“It’s a lot of money when you look at it, and a lot of fuel. We don’t sit here and keep ours running; we can’t afford to do that,” Henke said, adding he can’t charge the County for gas to keep the buses running because “they wouldn’t pay.

“Then you sit down and look at L-C-U-B, and they’re jacking up their prices, leaving their trucks running and sitting by the side of the road, and they’re going to sit here and say ‘You’re gonna pay it or you’re not going to have electricity,’” Henke said.

According to Henke, there is no excuse for LCUB leaving its work trucks running, since the trucks likely do not have regeneration systems, like some of the newer school buses and 18-wheelers.

New EPA standards require vehicles to produce less ozone pollution, and the regeneration system is a way to do that: a stainless steel exhaust collects the carbon and burns it in the tailpipe, producing ash.

The ash then can be dumped safely.

“Once it goes into its regeneration system, it has to complete its regeneration cycle. If you shut it down, it screws it up,” Henke said.

“I’ve been down here five years, and we’ve never run our buses like they run their trucks,” he added.

According to Nelson, there are only very specific instances when trucks should be left running.

Some line trucks that must be operated from the back, such as digger or bucket trucks, must be kept running to be operable, Nelson said, but other than that, exceptions to the rule of not leaving trucks running are few.

“If it’s line trucks, they will leave those running and go to another part of a subdivision; they may leave those running if it’s real cold because of the hydraulics,” Nelson said.

“But that’s just if they’re going to be away from it for 15 minutes. If they’re going to lunch and they leave that truck there, they lock that truck up and turn it off,” he added.

Nelson said he was going to pursue the matter with the general foreman at LCUB.

According to Henke, the last time he saw an LCUB truck running at the lot was in mid-January, while he was replacing a starter in a school bus for more than two hours.

“I was out here freezing in the cold, it was like 9 degrees outside, putting a starter on out in the yard, on the gravel.

“And that guy is sitting over there in his truck, sleeping, and the dang thing is running,” Henke said.

“And it’s like, ‘You know? You’ve been out there for an hour-and-a-half, two hours; it’s time for you to go to work!’” he added.

“But if they’re not going to sit here they’re going to find another place to sit,” Henke said.


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