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Summertime Conference Experiences

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a few in-person conferences. One was the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, California. Green energy stakeholders and manufacturers from across the globe came together to discuss future technologies and current trends for commercial vehicles aligned with class 5-8 trucks and buses.

I had the opportunity to hear a keynote address from Mathias Carlbaum, president and CEO of Navistar, the parent company of IC Bus. He shared a vision of lowering greenhouse gas emissions and how over two dozen countries have already achieved levels that the U.S. EPA is targeting to hit by 2050. To say the U.S. is lagging is an understatement.

One slide during Carlbaum’s presentation identified school buses as the first commercial fleet type to lead EV adoption over the next eight years. Considering the vast commercial vehicle portfolio Navistar boasts, it’s pretty amazing school bus is leading the way before other vocations catch up. Carlbaum projected that EVs will remain at a steady climb, but other fuel types like diesel will still be in place for years to come.

I also saw some familiar faces at ACT Expo, as quite a few large school bus contractors like First Student, National Express, Student Transportation of America, and Beacon Mobility were in attendance seeking the latest green technology. I also ran into Tucker Perkins, CEO of the Propane Education and Research Council. He honored Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento, California as a “Leading School Fleet” for transportation sustainability during the ACT Expo Fleet Awards. Accepting for the school district was Raymond Manalo, the manager of vehicle maintenance for the 147-bus fleet. Manalo told our STN Editor Ryan Gray that 10 electric school buses were on order to soon join the 47 already in operation. Twin Rivers first adopted EVs six years ago, and School Transportation News honored Manalo’s boss, Director of Transportation Tim Shannon, last year during our virtual Green Bus Summit as a “Green Bus Pioneer.” The district also continues to use 30 CNG buses, but Manalo added that Twin Rivers does not plan to buy more going forward. Instead, the district is using drop-in renewable diesel throughout the rest of the fleet because California now classifies it as an alternative fuel. Renewable diesel is not biodiesel and is defined by the California Air Resources Board as “produced from non-petroleum renewable resources.”

In a case study published last year by renewable fuel refiner Neste, Shannon called the switch from fossil fuel to renewable diesel “probably one of the easiest decisions we’ve ever had to make.” Another great experience I had at ACT Expo was attending an electric school bus ride and drive event. Yes, I even got to drive the electric IC Bus, which joined electric models being displayed by Blue Bird, BYD, GreenPower Motor, Lion Electric Company, and Thomas Built Buses, and a conversion by SEA Electric. I couldn’t believe how quiet the bus was, granted I didn’t have a bus load of kids in the back. I’d be curious to know how kids would react to this new environment. An increasing number of student transporters nationwide are experiencing exactly how routes are becoming more manageable in terms of student conduct. Also, the regenerative stopping power basically allows you to barely touch the brakes. I can see now why fleets are experiencing a significant cost savings from this benefit alone. I also understand the importance of school drivers needing to retrain to embrace this new style of driving to help save the brakes and tires, and to realize adequate battery charges. If you haven’t experienced driving an alternative fuel bus yourself, you’ll have a chance at the Green Bus Summit at STN EXPO Reno on July 17.

We will offer attendees an immersive green technology experience that includes focused content discussions from top industry suppliers and OEMs, a green bus ride and drive, infrastructure charging zone, live entertainment plus dinner and drinks too. STN EXPO Reno features three dozen sessions and two keynote addresses to drive conversations around increased efficiency and safety for North American school bus operations. The event held July 15-20 at the Pepper-mill Hotel Resort in Reno, Nevada, will host and feature 100 exhibiting companies at the trade show, which begins the evening of July 18 and concludes the following day. As you look at your summer conference schedule remember that training and networking is vital to the growth and professional development of your team. Keeping the kids safe takes a village and so will the transition to alternative energy fleets. I hope you to see you this summer.

Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the June 2022 issue of School Transportation News.

Related: Senior EPA Official to Discuss Clean School Bus Program at STN EXPO Reno
Related: ASBC Announces Winner of Annual School Bus Safety Poster Contest
Related: GreenPower Hosting Display and Demonstration of All- Electric School Buses at U.S. Capitol
Related: EPA Opens Up Funding for New Electric School Buses

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