Propane Buses Out West

When Columbia Falls School District Six began school last month, it joined over 900 other school districts across the nation transporting students in clean-operating, economical propane school buses.

The district purchased three Blue Bird Vision Propane buses after researching various alternative fuels, including electric and compressed natural gas. “Our school board concluded that propane was the best price and fit for our needs,” said Steve Bradshaw, superintendent of Columbia Falls School District Six. “We are a cost-conscious community, and saving taxpayer dollars while reducing emissions is a priority for our school district.”

Nearby Browning Public Schools has operated propane school buses with success for five years.

Columbia Falls School District - MTOn average, propane autogas costs about 50 percent less than diesel fuel. Columbia Falls School District pays $1.08 for propane compared with $2.89 for diesel, a savings of over 60 percent. The district also will reduce its maintenance expenses since propane buses do not require costly and complex after-treatment systems required for diesel buses.

In addition, the propane buses will help clear the air around its students and the community. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to nitrogen oxides (NOx) exhaust can trigger health problems like asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory issues. Propane naturally emits 96 percent fewer NOX emissions than diesel. The domestically produced alternative fuel also emits less greenhouse gases, smog-producing hydrocarbons, and particulate emissions compared to conventional fuels.

“Columbia Falls School District Six will experience noticeable cost and emissions savings with its new propane-powered buses,” said Ryan Zic, vice president of school bus sales for ROUSH CleanTech, the propane fuel system manufacturer. “The district’s drivers will also enjoy how quiet they are, allowing them to focus on the students and the road ahead.” Buses fueled by propane autogas reduce noise levels by producing less sound, resulting in about 50 percent less noise.

The district needed a plan to fuel the buses, but did not have space on its property to install infrastructure. The district signed a fueling contract with CityServiceValcon that built a propane fuel station near the school at no charge to the school district. The propane provider also trained the district’s bus drivers on fueling, which is as fast and simple to fuel as diesel buses.

“Montana winters can be brutal. With propane buses, there is no need to delay or close school in extreme temperatures because they start up and operate reliably in cold weather — up to negative 40 degrees,” said Zic.

This smaller purchase of three propane buses shows that any district — no matter the size — can adopt propane. Interested in promoting one of your propane bus customers? If you’ve got an intriguing story, let your ROUSH CleanTech sales representative know, and we’ll be in contact!