The School District of Indian River County in Vero Beach, Fla., has been operating Propane-Powered Vision school buses from Blue Bird Corp. since 2009, and the district has 26 units in its 111-bus fleet.
Blue Bird propane buses enhance safety for Florida district’s students
The transportation team at the School District of Indian River County in Vero Beach, Fla., has seen many benefits as a result of operating Propane-Powered Vision school buses from Blue Bird Corp. since 2009, including one safety benefit that was unexpected.
“Your ability to hear in and around the bus is enhanced by the quietness of the engine,” Director of Transportation George Millar says. “That’s very important when the driver is trying to communicate with students on the bus, or when students are trying to communicate with the driver from their seats. It’s also important when they come up to a railroad crossing.”
He adds that the propane buses benefit students from an environmental perspective by emitting less particulate matter than diesel buses, thereby contributing to better air quality in loading and unloading zones at school sites.
Millar says he was once giving an interview for a segment of the TV show MotorWeek about the district’s Propane-Powered Visions, and to illustrate his point about the reduced emissions, he rubbed his fingers on the inside of the tail pipe of a bus that had been on the road for a while. “The only thing that came off on my fingers was a little bit of rust residue. There was no soot,” he says.
The School District of Indian River County has 26 Propane-Powered Vision school buses in its 111-bus fleet, and the operation averages about 20,000 miles per bus each year. Millar estimates that when the price of liquid propane is low, his department’s annual savings in fuel costs are around $4,000 per propane bus compared to the fuel costs for diesel-powered buses.
“All of the buses are currently under a warranty service agreement, so we haven’t seen a cost savings in terms of maintenance yet,” Millar adds. “However, when you look at the general maintenance, such as a tune-up, the cost of the parts associated with the engine and drivetrain are a little less expensive with the propane buses [compared to a diesel bus]. For example, a diesel injector can be several hundred dollars, whereas a liquid propane injector is less than $100. We’re also looking at less labor. For example, it won’t take as long to change the oil because we’re not dealing with the same quantity that we are with a diesel bus.”
Director of Transportation George Millar says his department’s annual savings in fuel costs are around $4,000 per propane bus compared to the fuel costs for diesel-powered buses.
The condition of the roads in Indian River County played into Millar’s decision to go with propane.
“In our county, 45% to 48% of the roads are still dirt,” he explains. “We have a heavy agricultural area in Indian River County. With that said, the CNG buses are rear engine, and the dirt would be clogging filters significantly, so we would be changing filters frequently.”
The district has a propane refueling station onsite at its transportation facility, and Millar says it’s in the process of being enhanced with an 18,000-gallon tank and two double-hose dispensers that will enable four buses to be fueled at a time.
The drivers who operate the Propane-Powered Visions have been trained on how to refuel their buses.
For more information about Blue Bird’s Propane-Powered Vision school bus, visit www.blue-bird.com.