<p>Newport News (Va.) Public Schools has acquired 24 Blue Bird Vision Propane school buses. Shown here from left to right are Shay Coates, director of transportation; Nancy Tarr, bus driver; Marion Walker, bus assistant; and James Riddick, operations supervisor.</p>

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Newport News Public Schools recently purchased 24 Blue Bird Vision Propane school buses.

The buses are expected to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by nearly 30,000 pounds and particulate matter by over 760 pounds each year compared with the diesel buses they are replacing, according to Blue Bird and Roush CleanTech.

“Propane autogas is the best choice for Newport News Public Schools because it’s economical, safe, environmentally friendly, and offers many bus maintenance advantages,” said Shay Coates, director of transportation for Newport News Public Schools. “After two years of attending trade shows, meeting with bus manufacturers, and talking with colleagues in school districts that operate alternative-fuel buses, we knew this was the direction we wanted to pursue. The benefits of propane, in comparison to diesel, made it an easy choice for the school district.”

The school district took delivery of the school buses in February.

In 2016, Newport News Public Schools earned platinum certification through the Virginia School Boards Association’s Green School Challenge for encouraging environmental policies and practical actions that reduce carbon emissions and increase environmental awareness.

Currently, Newport News Public Schools pays 45% less for propane per gallon compared with diesel, according to Roush CleanTech and Blue Bird.

“Newport News Public Schools’ decision to run propane-powered buses is an environmental and cost-effective commitment to the Tidewater area’s students and community,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corp.

The new propane buses have positively impacted the schools’ bus drivers. Rosalind McCauley, an 18-year veteran driver, said the buses ride smoother and make less noise, allowing her to hear the students better. Driver Halle Washington said that the bus is so quiet that “at first I wasn’t even sure if it was running.” The noise level in propane buses is reportedly reduced by about half compared to a diesel engine.

“Propane-powered school buses offer tangible benefits to school districts like Newport News Public Schools looking for ways to reduce fleet operating costs while reducing their environmental impact,” said Brian Carney, executive director of school bus and customer success for Roush CleanTech.

Equipped with Ford Motor Co.’s 6.8L V10 engine, each bus is powered by a Roush CleanTech propane fuel system. Roush CleanTech propane fuel systems are Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board certified, according to the company.

Now in their fourth generation, Blue Bird’s Vision Propane buses have grown in number since their start 20 years ago — over 9,500 propane buses have been produced.

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