Alternative fuel technology is still a foreign concept to some student transporters who may not be familiar with propane, compressed natural gas (CNG) or hybrid-electric school buses. The good news is that school bus OEMs, “green” suppliers and trade organizations will provide the necessary training.
School districts can install their own CNG or propane fueling stations or utilize the public stations that are slowly but surely gaining ground. Richard Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica, said there are about 1,000 CNG fueling stations in the U.S. and more are being built every day.
“The clusters are increasing and the density of the fueling stations is increasing as well,” he said.
Steve Wayne, chief technology officer for the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), said that propane providers offer refueling safety and training classes on this “green” option that is also growing in popularity.
“Classes cover a range of concepts, including general propane knowledge, safety procedures and proper refueling techniques,” said Wayne.
Additionally, school bus manufacturers provide training for service technicians, drivers and other transportation staff on everything from troubleshooting to fueling. Erin Lake of Blue Bird said the company offers “extensive” training on new technologies at their factory, at the dealer level and via its website.
“Sometimes we have providers partner with us in training: Roush CleanTech is usually there and other vendors, like Allison Transmission. So it’s very comprehensive,” Lake said. “Training is important because technology changes when companies come out with the latest and greatest.”
“We offer four training courses to school transportation professionals,” said Mike Stotler, service education manager for Thomas Built Buses. “Two of the courses are designed to increase familiarization with the technologies, and two are driver- and technician-specific.”
John Thompson, IC Bus’ director of dealer training, said hybrid-specific training is provided to school districts that purchase the CE Series plug-in hybrid.
“This includes driver training on how to optimize performance, service tech training on preventative maintenance and servicing, and emergency responder training for the district, so they understand what to do in an emergency,” he said, adding that the company website also offers training materials for technicians.
Trans Tech President Dan Daniels said the company’s all-electric eTrans school bus is appealing because having fewer moving parts than a conventional bus translates into less maintenance.
"Trans Tech Bus is in the process of developing a technician training program for the all-electric eTrans for school districts, school bus dealerships and private contractors. The company is providing technical assistance and support directly to its customers on an as-needed-basis until the training program is finalized," added Daniels.
John Doswell of Collins Bus noted the company will release the first Type A school bus powered by CNG this summer through its partnership with BAF Technologies, a Clean Energy company.
"BAF has partnered with over 70 Ford dealers across the country who have become certified BAF service centers or up-fitters, and further trains and certifies customer maintenance and service departments on the systems," Doswell said.
Similarly, CleanFUEL USA provides training on propane school-bus maintenance and repair to GM dealers near customers' locations, he continued.