District transportation budgets can be volatile. While large enough to purchase several buses one year, a fleet’s budget can shrink the next year to barely cover the cost of one new bus.
Factors such as maintenance costs, capital costs, fuel and financing impact a fleet’s overall budget and can cause major swings from one year to the next. Fleet managers are left trying to maintain some kind of control over their budgets and to make smart choices that will have the least impact on their budgets down the road. For many fleets, this means lowering the total cost of ownership.
Easier said than done for some fleets. But for others, the key to their budget woes lies in stabilizing fuel costs, a tactic proven effective through the use of compressed natural gas.
Stabilizing Fuel Costs with Compressed Natural Gas
“Switching a fleet to compressed natural gas involves not only the capital cost of the buses themselves, but also the cost of a fueling stations if a district does not have a local CNG fueling station nearby,” said John Roselli, manager of alternative fuels for Thomas Built Buses. “The beauty of compressed natural gas is that once the upfront capital costs are accounted for, districts can plan their budgets year after year. Unlike other fuel sources, compressed natural gas prices are stable and low cost, which allows fleet managers to budget their fuel costs for the year without any hidden surprises or price spikes. With fuel rebates in place right now, we are seeing fleets enjoy CNG for $.80 per gallon, and then they receive a $.50 rebate from the government on top of that. Those kinds of prices are unheard of in the diesel world.”
Roselli added that districts which switch to compressed natural gas end up saving money in the long run and recouping their initial capital investment.
School districts such as North Kansas City School District, Parkway Schools and Lee’s Summit, which plan to save more than $10.5 million in transportation costs in 10 years by switching their fleets to compressed natural gas, already have seen the positive impact compressed natural gas has made on their fleets and their bottom line.
“Districts enjoy compressed natural gas not only because it saves fuel, but also because compressed natural gas buses are clean-burning, great for the environment and very quiet,” said Roselli. “And, since compressed natural gas is a domestic fuel source and the supply is relatively unlimited, the price of the fuel will always stay low and stable.”
Fleets which already have realized the benefits of compressed natural gas in Thomas Built Type D and Type A products are excited about an addition to the market. Thomas Built Buses has just announced its release of the Saf-T-Liner® C2 CNG school bus, the first in the industry. With compressed natural gas options for all three product types, Thomas Built Buses is once again an industry leader in alternative fuels.
Industry’s First Type C CNG Bus
The new Saf-T-Liner C2 CNG is powered by a Cummins Westport ISB6.7G 200-240 horsepower engine with an Allison 2000 series transmission. It has a 60 diesel gallon equivalent capacity and, like the traditional C2 customers know and love, the C2 CNG features excellent driver ergonomics and maneuverability, along with the best visibility in its class.
“Thomas Built Buses introduced its first compressed natural gas bus more than 20 years ago,” said Roselli. “It’s been popular, and we’ve put more than 2,000 CNG buses on the road since then. That’s why we are so excited about this new bus. You can expect a 13% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to our traditional C2, decreased bus maintenance and significant cost savings due to lower fuel costs and exceptional fuel economy. Customers looking for a type C product and considering alternative fuels now essentially can have it all.”
Thomas Built has confirmed that orders for the Saf-T-Liner C2 CNG already are coming in from fleets with compressed natural gas and from fleets trying compressed natural gas for the first time.
“Our customers could not be more excited about a Type C CNG product,” said Roselli. “Fleets which already realize reduced fuel costs from their Type A and D school buses are very pleased with the Type C option. And fleets which don’t have CNG yet also are placing orders. This is a great product that will provide fleets with significant cost savings. And, when diesel prices go back up, which they will, compressed natural gas will become an even more attractive option for fleets across the country.”