Dealer Spotlight: Brightbill Body Works
Location: Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Interviewee: Mason Hemphill
Title: Sales Representative
Q. What has made you successful with alternative fuels?
A. In the ’80s we experimented with gasoline buses and non-OEM propane alternatives in Blue Bird school buses in my home state of Texas. We learned a lot in those days where propane worked, but the non-OEM vapor driven systems were costly for our customers. Once the abundance of propane was discovered in the large natural gas reserves, it became much more attractive as an alternative fuel. After exhausting (no pun intended) several years of EGR and SCR and related truck emission solutions, I was eager to see the ROUSH CleanTech system with liquefied injection and OEM quality in action.
The Roush team at the time was Todd Mouw and Chelsea Jenkins who quickly convinced me that this was to be the fastest and most exciting product to be introduced to our industry. I thoroughly and completely believe in this product and its further development in the alternative fuel, clean air transportation and energy independence revolution. This is the right thing to do for taxpayers, the environment and, most importantly, future generations.
At Brightbill, we’re very passionate about propane-fueled school buses because school districts and contractors experiencing negative aspects of diesel maintenance now have a practical solution. Propane-powered school buses not only are the right thing to do for the school district, but also for the environment and especially for our school children with developing respiratory systems.
Q. What is your overall approach to selling propane-fueled buses?
A. I am grateful and humble every day with all the excitement about the Blue Bird Propane Vision. This does not happen overnight, and I am fortunate to have many wonderful people helping me along the way.
Short- and long-term planning / goal setting are vital to get the process started. I have a great staff and colleagues at Brightbill, ROUSH CleanTech, the Blue Bird team, key fuel suppliers and agencies, like the Pennsylvania Propane Gas Association and EP-ACT, PTAP and PSBA, who have helped me with opportunities to speak about the propane bus and its benefits. The benefits of clean air drive me and its why the school bus industry has such a bright, clean and abundant future with propane. The propane bus is interesting to people and the best built offering that I have ever had the privilege to sell.
Q. How do you introduce propane-fueled buses to prospective customers?
A. We utilize propane gas associations, trade shows, transportation associations, trial programs, safety competitions and our local Clean Cities coalitions to help us get the word out. I have a great state gas association (PAPGA) that helps me maintain relationships with propane marketers. This has been vital to my success and are my experts for fueling infrastructure, safety and usage.
We are participating members of local transportation and school business associations who often invite me, ROUSH CleanTech and Blue Bird to speak about the success of the propane school bus in other areas of the country and our state. We develop presentations, drive demonstration buses and show them anywhere it is practical. We participate in state and local safety competitions in my area to show off the benefits of propane in the Blue Bird school bus. It’s a great way to introduce propane buses into the conversation and get key exposure.
Another component of success is the EP-ACT, which is a local agency that helps write grants and is in touch with incentives for our end-user schools. This helps get the word out and, while not completely necessary for a successful ROI, has assisted with great press and enthusiasm about the projects.
Q. Have you received any feedback from school bus drivers?
A. Yes! Our success is vital from our drivers! If you speak to drivers at school districts, rarely do they have the knowledge about what they are driving. We would never attempt to describe the chemistry set solutions that are present in the modern-day diesel buses because it seems to work against them in the stop / start application of a school bus. We recognized that the drivers related to propane easily because it is quiet and fun to drive (compared to diesel buses). Now, I speak to school bus drivers every chance I get about what Blue Bird, ROUSH CleanTech and Ford are doing with the propane school bus. We want them to have a stake in this remarkable movement.
We teach driver orientation classes that include history, operating and safety procedures about the propane product. We demonstrate the propane school bus constantly and drive it thousands of miles around our area to show bus drivers, transportation management, owners, superintendents and even school boards the bus. Once drivers have a chance to drive their new propane-fueled buses, and understand the state-of-the-art investment that their school and / or contract company has supplied them, they never want to go back to a diesel-powered bus.
Older diesel buses often create fatigue from noise, vibration and fumes. This diminishes the energy and enthusiasm required to operate a school bus effectively. The Blue Bird Propane Vision eliminates these issues and ensures a quieter and more pleasant vehicle to transport children. Drivers can concentrate on the passengers and other dynamics of the school bus environment. Drivers love the fact that our bus heats up with distributed heat much faster, reduces idle time and is as much as 9 decibels quieter than a diesel.
So yes, I guess I would say that driver understanding and participation is critical to the success of this product. I enjoy showing it to drivers to help them understand that this is a win-win for the everyone involved.