MESA, Ariz. — With an eye on reducing its dependence on diesel, Mesa Public Schools has acquired 27 propane school buses.
Ron Latko, director of transportation and vehicle maintenance, told SBF that he estimates the district will save more than $105,000 in fuel costs this year with the propane buses, which are the first for the district and possibly the state.
While propane gets fewer miles per gallon than diesel, Latko calculated that with propane's significantly lower price and a federal reimbursement of 50 cents per gallon, the alternative fuel will be about 25.1 cents per mile cheaper than diesel.
"I felt boxed in a corner when it came to diesel," Latko said, citing rising prices and the addition of equipment to meet the EPA's emissions standards.
Mesa, which has a fleet of 509 school buses — the largest in Arizona — purchased 21 Micro Bird propane Type As and six Blue Bird propane Type Cs from Canyon State Bus Sales. All are powered by a 6.8 liter Ford engine with a Roush propane fueling system. Ferrellgas is supplying the district with an 18,000-gallon propane tank and infrastructure.
The first wave of the propane bus order was delivered to the district last week. All of the buses are expected to go into service this month.
"Mesa should be commended for being creative in such a poor economy for not only saving taxpayers money but cleaning up the environment," said Tom Hartman, sales manager at Canyon State Bus Sales.
Beyond the lower fuel and maintenance costs of the propane buses, Latko noted that reducing reliance on foreign oil was a factor in the district's decision.
"Ninety percent of the propane comes from right here in the U.S.A.," he said. "We take it very seriously when it comes to managing our resources — financially and environmentally."