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May 14, 2013  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

How to maximize staff safety around alt-fuel buses

From fueling training to regular tank inspection to a properly equipped maintenance facility, there are many factors to consider when operating school buses on propane autogas and compressed natural gas to ensure employees’ well-being. Industry officials discuss these and other components, along with the built-in safety features of some of today’s buses.

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Pictured is the fitting to hook the fuel pump on a Napa Valley (Calif.) Unified School District CNG bus. Director of Transportation Ralph Knight says that if the black O ring is missing, fuel will leak if the pump is turned on. “Our drivers have been trained in how to deal with this problem, and spare O rings are in the bus for the driver to use,” Knight says.
<p>Pictured is the fitting to hook the fuel pump on a Napa Valley (Calif.) Unified School District CNG bus. Director of Transportation Ralph Knight says that if the black O ring is missing, fuel will leak if the pump is turned on. “Our drivers have been trained in how to deal with this problem, and spare O rings are in the bus for the driver to use,” Knight says.</p>

Provide training, equipment to fuel buses
While manufacturers’ buses have built-in safety features, there are precautions that pupil transporters should take when fueling them since there are differences between propane autogas and CNG compared to conventional fuels like diesel and gasoline.  

Ralph Knight, director of transportation at Napa Valley (Calif.) Unified School District (USD), has buses in his fleet that are powered by biodiesel and CNG, and he also has hybrid and electric buses.

He says that when fueling CNG buses, it’s essential to make sure that the attachment for the fuel nozzle is on the bus securely before turning the pump on — otherwise, the attachment could come off and propel into the air due to the pressure from the CNG. He also notes that the O ring must be in place. If it’s not, fuel will leak if the pump is turned on.  

“With propane nozzles, it’s the same as with natural gas,” Knight adds. “You want to make sure that the nozzle is connected and locked into place before you turn the pressure on to start filling the bus.”

Eric Kissel, director of transportation at Glendale (Ariz.) Elementary School District #40, agrees, and he says he and his staff learned from training provided by Ferrellgas, the district’s propane  provider, that it’s important not to stand directly in front of the fuel receiving area on the bus because if there’s any blow-by, there’s a potential to get burned.     

“We provide gloves and safety goggles to the staff for fueling if they would like to use them,” he adds.
 
Perform regular fuel tank inspections
Along with fueling the buses properly, their tanks must be inspected regularly. Rineer says four of his six technicians are also tank inspectors. The vehicles’ fuel tanks are required to be inspected every three years or 36,000 miles, or if the bus is involved in a major accident.

“They’re looking for rust or wear around the tanks, and they check all of the fittings and the way the tanks are mounted underneath the bus to make sure the cages are protected from road hazards,” he explains.  

Stark says Thomas Built Buses encourages its customers to be familiar with National Fire Protection Association Code 52, which mandates that customers inspect their vehicles’ fuel cylinders at least once every two years for nicks and cuts, although annual inspection is recommended.

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Read more about: alternative fuels, Blue Bird Corp., CNG, Collins Bus Corp., hybrid bus, propane, Thomas Built Buses

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