Bus companies in Alaska winterize their motor coaches for the extreme cold, but Greyhound isn’t willing to say whether it does the same for its Yukon service.
On December 29, passengers took a frigid Whitehorse to Dawson Creek ride on a Greyhound with no heat. The bus’s heating system broke down just after it left Whitehorse, and passengers reported riding 20 hours without heat. The bus stopped in Watson Lake for blankets.
On January 7, a second group of Greyhound passengers experienced another bone-chilling ride, according to a bus rider who wished to remain anonymous.
Passengers could see their breath on the bus, he said. But the man couldn’t confirm whether the electric heating system had broken down or just couldn’t keep up with the temperature outside.
Greyhound hasn’t returned calls on the incident.
Other bus companies were more forthcoming.
“We have auxiliary heaters on all of our coaches,” said Josh Howes, vice-president of safety and operations for Premier buses in Anchorage.
“They crank out some heavy duty BTUs (British Thermal Units) to help heat the interior of the coach,” he said.
Auxiliary heaters are mounted in school buses, municipal buses and motor coaches to help the engine stay warm.
“What it does is help heat up the engine more, and then the engine heat is transferred into the interior of the coach so it keeps the interior of the coach a bit warmer,” he said.
Premier also makes sure to have double-pane windows, said Howes.
“That’s essential. With any sort of single-pane windows, you’d lose all the heat out of the interior right away.”
The company has block heaters on every piece of equipment and stair heaters to prevent ice from forming on the steps.
Grayline buses is evaluating the effectiveness of double-pane windows, said Fairbanks division manager, Adam Barth.
“It’s something that we’ve looked at to help retain some of the heat inside, but we haven’t actually done that yet,” he said.
The company does have auxiliary heaters on its coaches but it makes sure to inform its passengers that accidents do happen.
“The groups on board are all informed that they need to be prepared for any winter survival conditions,” he said. “They have to have the supplies they will need.”
One auxiliary heater company said their product is popular in Canada.
“In Canada, there are a number of bus companies that are using the products that Teleflex offers just because of its ability to handle the extreme cold weather,” said Gregory Van Tighem, a spokesperson for Teleflex Power Systems, based in Richmond.
Demand for auxiliary heaters is likely to climb as pressure mounts to make diesel engines more efficient, said Van Tighem. The more efficient the engine, the less heat it vents off for the interior, he said.
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