Four shuttles broke down on Nov. 11 and Nov. 12 leaving students by the side of the road waiting for the next shuttle. One shuttle that broke down Tuesday evening had about 60 students on board, according to Loyola officials.
The breakdown was caused by biodiesel fuel 一 an environmentally-friendly fuel made from animal fat or vegetable oil 一 that “gummed up” the fuel filters as a result of last week’s cold snap, according to Gretchen Carey, the manager of campus transportation which handles the shuttles and 8-ride.
She said the biodiesel in the shuttles fuel lines didn’t completely freeze, but thickened into a “jelly” that couldn’t get through the fuel filter and prevented the regular diesel from getting to the engine.
The shuttles run on biodiesel from Loyola’s biodiesel lab in the warmer months and work with MV Transportation — which provides Loyola’s shuttles and shuttle drivers — to shift from biodiesel to diesel fuel in the shuttles once it gets cold. Carey said the lab started the process earlier than usual this year because they had similar issues in the past.
“They were working through a plan to blend the biodiesel out by Dec. 1 but the cold snap hitting threw a wrench into that plan,” Carey said. “[There’s] not a good science for when [the filters] will get clogged again.”
“Now that it’s cold … students will get more impatient and turn to the ‘L’ and that can be unreliable too.”Anaisabel Lopez, Loyola Student
Zach Waickman, Loyola’s biodiesel lab manager, wrote in an email to The Phoenix that the four new shuttles in the fleet this year could only use 20 percent biodiesel, so the lab had to adjust its process, blending the fuels rather than just switching from one to the other in October.
He said the lab has tried to blend the fuels earlier or use different mixes to try and prevent this problem, but the lab doesn’t have a solid solution yet.
The problem isn’t specifically with Loyola’s biodiesel but with how all biodiesel reacts to cold weather because of its chemical structure, he said.
As of now, all four shuttles that broke down were fixed by MV Transportation mechanics and are running again Carey said.
Carey said students only waited an average of five minutes between the breakdowns and pick ups by the next shuttle, but Campus Transportation is communicating with biodiesel lab and MV to prevent this in the future.
“If this happens continuously then they need to find something more effective than just switching between fuels. … [Loyola] also needs to make sure the workers aren’t taking on more responsibility than they need to … because it does affect them as well.”Marlon Vargas, Loyola Student
Loyola junior Anaisabel Lopez said students rely on the shuttle to get to class on time but might resort to other options if the shuttles keep breaking down
“Now that it’s cold … students will get more impatient and turn to the ‘L’ and that can be unreliable too,” the bilingual education major said.
Marlon Vargas, a 22-year-old Loyola senior said the breakdowns affect more than just the students, and while the environmentally friendly fuel is important, these breakdowns need to be addressed.
“If this happens continuously then they need to find something more effective than just switching between fuels,” the multimedia journalism major said. “[Loyola] also needs to make sure the workers aren’t taking on more responsibility than they need to … because it does affect them as well.”