There are more than 22,000 propane school buses on American roads in 49 states, transporting 1.3 million kids to school daily. Chances are, if you don’t operate propane buses, a neighboring district or regional school bus contractor does.
Refueling propane school buses is easy because often a propane provider will install a refueling station at low, or even no, cost with signage of a long-term fuel contract. A station always includes a tank, a dispenser and safety bollards, among other components.
As with any technology, being proactive when it comes to maintenance is the key to ensuring a propane refueling station will function on the hottest fall and spring days and the coldest winter days. There are three key tips a fleet operator should address this summer to maximize school year success.
Test dispenser functionality.
- Ask your propane provider to assist with arranging for dispenser proving for accurate volume readings.
- Ensure the dispenser is reporting proper fuel amounts to fuel management system. Some dispensers automatically update with its proprietary software.
- Check for proper operation of liquid inlet valves.
- Check and test piping system for any possible leaks and repair if needed.
- Inspect hose and breakaway for proper function and lubricate as needed.
- Inspect and lubricate nozzle.
- Clean and touch up paint on dispenser and piping system to prevent corrosion.
Perform routine maintenance on pumps to ensure they run efficiently.
- Verify the motor is operating at proper RPMs.
- Confirm pump seals are not leaking.
- Check and lubricate bearings.
- Verify pump bypass is working properly and set to 120 pounds pressure differential.
- Confirm proper voltage and amperage draw.
Test safety systems.
- Confirm electrical emergency shutdown shuts off when pushed.
- Test nitrogen emergency shutdown system for any leaks at fittings or tubing.
Superior Energy Systems recommends these maintenance issues be addressed quarterly and ideally prior to school starting. If you aren’t capable of conducting maintenance on your own, by all means work with your propane provider or hire the work out.
Another pro tip: Driver training should be performed annually with refresher courses on how to properly and safely refuel buses.
Propane school buses are the most effective alternative to diesel school buses, and proper maintenance during the summer will help ensure reliable operation all year long.
Jim Bunsey is the director of operations for Superior Energy Systems, an industry leader in manufacturing made-to-order propane vaporizers and mixers, portable and permanent rail towers, metering and odorant skids, and propane autogas dispensers.