The latest free webinar from School Transportation News, Propane Buses: The Smart Choice for Schools hosted by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), focused on the significant benefits of using propane autogas for schools in order to maximize efficiency, meet sustainability goals and increase profitability.
Michael Taylor, director of autogas business development for PERC, provided attendees with an overview of the progression of the propane bus industry now and its potential for future use.
In “2012 there were approximately 1,800 propane school buses operating in the U.S., over the past five years propane autogas school buses have increased to over 12,000, and actually that number is increasing weekly (via) the sales that we’re seeing,” said Taylor.
Propane autogas are operating in over 700 school districts across the country transporting more than 750,000 students every day, Taylor added.
Although established diesel fuel prices may remain comparatively low, as Taylor pointed out, propane autogas can provide fleets with a faster return on investment due to even lower fuel costs and little if any added costs over the lifespan of the vehicle — primarily the fluids, filters, fuel components and repairs necessary with diesel buses.
In comparison to diesel, propane buses have demonstrated more reliable starts in the cold winter months, as the engines warm up quicker and provide near-instant cabin heat for the entire bus. As mentioned in the webinar, most school bus drivers also prefer the propane buses due to the quieter operation system, as it allows them better listen for issues on the bus as well as well for traffic conditions outside.
The cleaner, domestic fuel propane buses use is proven also to have more emission reductions per dollar invested compared to other fueling systems. But a poll question presented during the webinar found that 71 percent of the voters said lowest total cost-of-ownership is the most important benefit of propane autogas.
John Benish, chief operating officer of school bus contractor Cook-Illinois Corporation, presented his experience with the use of propane school buses in the metropolitan Chicago area. “The biggest thing that I like about propane is keeping the drivers happy,” said Benish. "With the driver shortage in full effect, keeping drivers in great conditions and comfortability is high on the list, as well as heat."
Propane buses work great in low temperatures during winter months, he explained, adding that there are idling restrictions as there are with diesel, and heating systems maintain driver warmth throughout the day. Propane is “abundant, inexpensive and cost-effective” said Benish.
While the initial cost of switching from a diesel bus to a propane bus can run between $5,000 and $10,000 more for districts, the return on investment tied to less expensive fuel and reduced maintenance can be available within the first five years, said Benish.
Steve Smith, director of transportation at M.S.D. Warren Township, said periodic maintenance for propane buses is costin about $30 for every 15,000 miles driven compared to the $300 in diesel buses that have accumulated the same number of miles.
“We did some calculations and we definitely are looking at saving on oil and filters and cost and time just to do all of our filter changing,” said Smith.
Missed the webinar? Watch it here for free.