AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott has designated Nov. 30 to Dec. 4 “Texas Propane School Bus Week.”
In making the proclamation, Abbott cited the vital role that propane autogas plays in powering thousands of school buses in districts across Texas.
Officials said that the week celebrates the 10th anniversary of the initial meeting attended by various industry representatives that sparked Blue Bird’s development of an OEM, factory-produced propane school bus.
Since that first meeting in 2005, according to the Texas Railroad Commission, more than 2,600 propane-autogas-powered buses are now in operation in school districts across the state.
Nationwide, more than 400 districts are operating about 7,000 propane school buses. All of the major school bus OEMs now offer propane models.
“The state of Texas is commemorating a substantial milestone in propane autogas and student transportation,” said Curtis Donaldson, president of CleanFUEL USA and coordinator of the initial launch meeting. “It is amazing to look back and know that this group essentially paved the road for cleaner and more economical propane autogas school buses throughout the United States.”
Donaldson and Al McFadden (director of business development, now retired) were honored during an event on Tuesday at the Texas Education Agency in Austin. The event was sponsored by the Propane Council of Texas and the Propane Education & Research Council, and it was hosted by Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. State Rep. Tony Dale offered a resolution from the state House of Representatives recognizing those who initiated the propane school bus program.
Bob Pachla, president and founder of Powertrain Integration Acquisition (PI), who was among those recognized by the resolution, reflected on the 2005 meeting and the subsequent efforts to launch a propane school bus program.
“It all started with two buses,” Pachla said. “The Propane Education Research Council got the ball rolling with funding, and Blue Bird sent us two Vision buses. We pulled the diesel engines and mechanically integrated a GM 8.1L engine, Allison transmission and CleanFUEL USA propane fuel system into the chassis. PI also contributed electrical integration and performed testing before the two buses were returned to Blue Bird to kick off the official production program.”
The resulting product was reportedly the first OEM spark-ignited, on-highway propane engine package in decades.