South Carolina's Department of Education (DOE) took receipt of the first propane school buses in the state since the 1980s with the purchase of 26 new Blue Bird Propane Visions destined for two local school districts.
An agency spokesman said it decided to purchase the propane buses at a premium despite being a low-bid state. The buses are destined for Dorchester and Berkeley counties, where they are expected to be added to current routes after being processed by the state's transportation department.
“We had heard about the propane technology that Blue Bird propane buses possess from various sources,” said Mike Bullman, director of maintenance for the DOE. “With aging diesel buses in our fleet, it was time to replace them and propane was the option we thought worked best financially and environmentally speaking over the long-term.”
South Carolina's DOE operates a fleet of 5,600 school buses, so maintenance will eventually be the responsibility of agency technicians. While the buses come with the standard Blue Bird warranty of five years or 100,000 miles, Bullman said staff from two maintenance shops, state-certified driver trainers and engineering associates already attended a one-day training session taught by ROUSH and have been using the company’s web-based training modules.
Technicians plan to eventually attend a two-day ROUSH advanced course in Michigan, the next class being offered next month, and the agency will purchase diagnostic software and any special tools required for servicing the vehicles.
Bullman said that South Carolina operated some propane buses for Richland County about three decades ago, but the “old technology” was difficult to maintain, requiring more service than the gasoline and diesel buses at the time.
South Carolina purchased the buses, which are outfitted with Ford 6.8L V10 engines and ROUSH CleanTech propane fuel systems, from Blanchard Bus Centers.
Blue Bird said one Propane Vision bus can also save districts up to $3,500 a year in fuel costs, while also reducing emissions compared to diesel.
“This domestic fuel also produces far less particulate matter and NOx emissions than diesel, so the buses don’t require expensive and difficult to maintain after-treatment components to make them run clean,” said Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech.
Blue Bird’s Chief Commercial Officer Mark Terry said Vision Propane sales increased nationwide by 33 percent last year, adding in a statement that "these buses clearly work to save districts money, and are incredibly environmentally friendly, We are glad to see that South Carolina has added this amazing product to their fleet. We know they will not be disappointed.”