Mahmoud Chami, transportation mechanic team lead at Houston Independent School District, shows off the Leadership with Propane Autogas Award that the district received recently.

Mahmoud Chami, transportation mechanic team lead at Houston Independent School District, shows off the Leadership with Propane Autogas Award that the district received recently.

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) recently presented the first Leadership with Propane Autogas Awards to three school districts.

East Sac County Community School District in Iowa, Houston Independent School District in Texas, and Mobile County Public Schools in Alabama were recognized by PERC for their commitment to sustainable practices. The awards were presented during a ceremony on July 26 at the STN Expo in Reno, Nevada.

“These three award-winning districts are saving money, helping the environment, and being good stewards of their community and constituents by transitioning their school bus fleets to propane buses,” said Michael Taylor, PERC’s director of autogas business development.

Here are details on the three districts:

East Sac County Community School District
Director of Transportation Phil Howes said that student safety was the primary reason East Sac County Community School District purchased propane buses. The northwest Iowa district transports about 1,000 students in six small towns. Winter temperatures can drop to minus 20 degrees, and diesel buses needed to idle long before departing with students. This practice wasted fuel and caused premature wear for major engine and emissions system components, according to the district.

Along with health benefits for students during the winter, Howes said that each propane school bus saves the district as much as $8,000 per year on fuel costs and decreased maintenance.

“I eventually plan on switching our whole fleet over to propane,” Howes said.

Houston Independent School District
Houston Independent School District has more than 34,000 students enrolled at 240 schools, with a total of 1,100 buses collectively covering 14 million miles each year. The district’s school bus fleet includes 123 propane buses, and plans call for adding 40 more propane buses during the fall 2016 semester.

Andres Montes, senior manager of fleet operations for the district, said the financial benefits have helped the district see value in continuing to purchase more propane buses. “Fuel savings has been the primary benefit, combined with lower maintenance costs for an overall savings of up to $3,000 per bus per year,” he said, adding that the district was also attracted to propane buses’ ability to help reduce air pollution.

“I’m honored that we were one of three districts in the nation to receive this award,” said Nathan Graf, general manager of transportation for Houston Independent School District. “It speaks highly of our mechanics and our team that we took steps to green our fleet.”

Mobile County Public Schools
Mobile County Public Schools runs 80 propane school buses — almost 11% of its total bus fleet. The buses help serve a total population of nearly 60,000 students. “We anticipate purchasing more,” said Pat Mitchell, director of transportation.

Since adding propane buses, Mitchell said that the district has saved in fuel costs, reduced maintenance costs, and reduced downtime, because the buses don’t go in for repairs as much. He added that he is also considering using propane to fuel other vehicles in the district’s fleet.

“The feedback has all been positive,” Mitchell said. “Drivers especially like them.”

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