Among the recipients of the Green Bus Fleet Awards announced on April 22 are a large school bus contractor that operates the most propane school buses to date across Canada and a small Washington state school district with over 40 percent of its fleet consisting of propane and electric buses.
School Transportation News and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory judged 18 nominations submitted in April and selected winners in four categories for fleets over 100 buses and fleets under 100.
Winning the large private fleet award with 30 percent of its fleet powered by propane is Pacific Western Transportation (PWT), a contractor that operates in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Over 60 percent of the 856 propane buses are operated by subsidiary Southland Transportation at its Calgary and Halifax, Nova Scotia locations.
According to the PWT, the propane buses removed 3,229 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere in 2019 alone. That’s equivalent to preventing 686 passenger vehicles from being driven for an entire year. Propane has also cut greenhouse gas emissions by 44 percent compared to diesel. The alternative fuel also emits 98 percent less particulate matter (PM) than diesel and 60 percent less carbon monoxide than gasoline.
University Place School District No. 083 in Washington state was recognized for operating both propane and electric buses, which have eliminated 20,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide emissions and 468 pounds of PM per year. The bus drivers also rave about how quiet the buses are running, commented Rusty Mitchell, the account manager at dealer Bryson Sales & Service.
“They also appreciate the fast heating of the passenger compartment in the cold Washington winters,” he added in his nomination for the small fleet category. “Who better than the school district to set the example in the community of improving the air quality for the students, employees and residents.”
Mitchell also cited the work of Dawnett Wright, the district’s transportation director, for her work in ushering clean school buses into the state.
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Meanwhile, the Mobile County Public School System in Alabama took home the large public fleet award for 255 propane school buses out of a fleet of 1,000. The district began introducing propane in 2014 with an initial order of 30 buses. It has utilized available grant opportunities including the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund settlement.
Mark Bentley, the executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, who nominated Mobile County, relayed that propane saves the district approximately $3,000 per bus in fuel and maintenance costs compared to diesel buses.
The small private fleet award goes to Durham School Services and the Norwalk Board of Education in Connecticut, where all 65 of the school buses are powered by propane. The conversion from diesel began last spring. The underground fuel tanks were removed with a plan to install two 1,990-gallon, above-ground storage tanks on site this summer. David Gable, the president of propane provider Hocon Gas, Inc., said in his nomination that the propane is currently stored in a 1,000-gallon dispenser
A special “Pioneer in School Bus Electrification” award was also given to Tim Shannon, the director of transportation for Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento, California, which continues to operate the largest fleet of electric school buses in North America. Shannon, who is also the alternative fuels writing committee chair for the 17th National Congress on School Transportation, led the adoption about six years ago. The district currently operates 40 electric buses, a number that will increase to 58 in August. The rest of the 100-bus fleet consists of CNG and renewable diesel buses.
“I could not have achieved any of this without the support of the awesome people around me and all of the industry support,” said Shannon, who spoke during the Green Bus Summit about the district’s experiences with electric as well as alternative fuel buses.
Ray Manolo, Twin River’s fleet manager, also spoke during the virtual event on maintenance issues.