Bus drivers at Glendale (Ariz.) Elementary School District #40 are provided with protective goggles and gloves when they need to fuel the district’s propane buses.
Last year, school bus contractor Student Transportation Inc. (STI) and its subsidiary Student Transportation of America Inc. secured the largest transportation agreement in its history. As part of that contract with a Nebraska transportation association, the company will provide more than 400 new propane autogas buses.
STI represents just one of a growing number of pupil transportation operations running school buses on alternative fuels like propane autogas and compressed natural gas (CNG).
This suggests that officials are not only aware of the cost savings these fuels can yield, but that they believe they are safe.
“It’s a very safe fuel,” says Jerry Rineer, transportation supervisor at Lower Merion School District in Ardmore, Pa., of CNG. Lower Merion School District operates 58 buses fueled by CNG.
Buses have built-in safety features
Officials at school bus manufacturing companies that offer propane autogas and/or CNG buses also say that the fuel tanks in their buses are very durable. Collins Bus Corp. says, for example, that propane tanks are 20 times more puncture resistant than their gas and diesel counterparts.
John Roselli, director of alternative fuel sales at Blue Bird Corp., adds that with his company’s buses powered by propane autogas or CNG, “the fuels are in steel tanks and the tanks are mounted between the frame rails in our buses, which make it [the tank] extremely difficult to damage.”
Thomas Built Buses offers propane, CNG and hybrid-electric buses. Michael Stark, senior technical sales manager for Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., which provides the chassis for Thomas Built’s units, also speaks to the safety features of the manufacturer’s buses.
“All Thomas Built CNG buses are equipped with several different mitigation devices to ensure safe practices,” Stark says. “The first of these features is an engine disconnect device, which is an electronic device over the fuel cap. When the fuel cap is removed, the engine is disengaged. Once the fuel cap is placed back on, the engine is initialized so the bus can be driven. This safety mechanism ensures that buses remain disengaged while fueling.”