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April 18, 2023

Our Quality Assurance Team Keeps You Riding

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Metro Transit Quality Assurance team posing in front of a MetroBus.

Meet our Quality Assurance (QA) team here at Metro Transit. They oversee the purchases of all new buses and Metro Call-A-Ride vans and create systems to ensure we can continue to provide reliable service to our region.

When it comes to maintaining a fleet of more than 300 MetroBus and Call-A-Ride vehicles, the most powerful tool isn’t a socket wrench or a screwdriver—it’s data. Each vehicle records trip and performance data on a device the we know as the “black box.” 

The Quality Assurance team tracks the data and looks for patterns that provide clues to the longevity of a particular auto part. After spending the day with our QA team, we learned that we’ve collected more than a quarter billion (yes, billion with a “b”) miles worth of data. “We were able to predict injector failures one week before they happened, just by looking at raw data,” says Bret Klein, Manager of Product Development. 

Using this data, the team has implemented changes that reduced emissions & increased gas mileage, streamlined repairs, and improved safety and comfort for both passengers and operators. The time between road calls has increased, and roadside repairs are an exception instead of the norm. 

That data even revealed differences in the timing of repairs based on where the buses operate. For example, the team knows door motors tend to wear out faster on buses in Missouri than in Illinois. A part like that has less to do with bus mileage and more to do with frequency of use. In this case, the doors open more often in Missouri than in Illinois. 

The team’s Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) Program has become a national model since it was first implemented in the early 2000s. The program focuses on using quality parts and performing preemptive maintenance to reduce bus breakdowns, streamline repairs, and improve on-time performance for our customers. Transit officials from as far away as Calgary, Alberta in Canada have come to St. Louis to learn about the program.

An electric MetroBus being repaired in a garageBy anticipating the wear-and-tear and proactively replacing parts before they break, the RCM Program greatly reduced the number of road calls and other mechanical failures. “We found within the first few months of implementing something, we started to make massive gains,” says Geoff. “We’ve had not one, but two vehicles that have reached over a million miles, without any major work being done to them. And we’ve driven the distance between road calls to the one of the best in the nation.” 

This approach saves money too. The team focuses on purchasing high-quality parts, which they know through real-world testing will last longer than other, less expensive options. “You already have to spend the money (on parts),” says Matt Partington, Product Analyst. “Where you’re saving is, you are dictating when that part is going to be replaced versus the part dictating that.” Fewer roadside breakdowns mean mechanics can focus more on scheduled repairs, which minimizes the number of vehicles out of service on any given day. 

A MetroBus in a maintenance garageEven the way Metro now buys new buses helps toward the goal of maximizing maintenance efficiency. Instead of buying dozens, even hundreds, of buses at a time, the team makes smaller purchases of 15-25 buses each year. When one hundred new buses hit the road at the same time, all one hundred buses will be due for repairs at the same time too. But staggering smaller purchases helps spread out that workload. It also allows the QA team to continue fine-tuning its standards with each purchase. 

From the first mile to the last, Reliability-Centered Maintenance helps keep your ride running smoothly. 

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