School bus contractor Student Transportation of America announced it will provide about 530 school buses, more than three-quarters of which wil be powered by propane, to two Omaha, Neb., school districts.
STA's initial four-year contract with Omaha Public Schools and Millard Public Schools is the largest in the company's history and is set to begin in August. Both school boards approved the new contract, according to a company spokeswoman, who added that STA will provide consolidated busing services for both districts under agreement with the Metropolitan Omaha Education Consortium (MOEC) Interlocal Transportation Association.
STA added it will open at least three facilities in the Omaha area. The company said it expects options will be exercised to renew the contract beyond the initial four years to six years and approximately $25 million. STA also plans to offer positions to all current district employees and said it will work closely with the district in developing new technology for routing and scheduling, state-of-the-art driver training programs, managerial development and improved communication programs for schools and parents regarding transportation issues.
The contractor will purchase more than 400 propane-powered school buses from Blue Bird and ROUSH CleanTech. Blue Bird added it is also the single largest order of propane buses to date. The remaining diesel buses will be ordered from IC Bus.
Denis J. Gallagher, CEO and chairman of Student Transportation, Inc., the parent company of STA, said his company has been working closely with the nation's leading manufacturers and suppliers to develop ways to increase alternative fuels into its fleet.
"Domestically-produced, clean-burning propane autogas is a perfect fit for school fleets with up to 30-percent less greenhouse (gas) emissions," he said. "By running propane-powered buses, Omaha Public Schools can reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 2,310,469 lbs. per year, significantly lowering the school district's carbon footprint, which was its goal for the coming year."
According to STA, propane sales currently contribute more than $122 million to Nebraska's economy.
In related company news, STA said the new Omaha-area contract has already increased year-over-year revenues for 2013 by 15 percent, and the company expects similar growth for fiscal year 2014. The additional revenues and cash flows will be accretive to the company's earnings in fiscal 2014 and will help "significantly reduce" its projected payout ratio and improve margins.