Student Transportation of America Inc. (STA) will use 92 Blue Bird propane-fueled school buses in its recently awarded $6 million annual contract with Mesa County Valley School District 51 in Grand Junction, Colorado.

The buses will power the youngest and largest “green fleet” of school vehicles in Colorado, according to Blue Bird and STA.

The five-year contract starts in July, and provides for customer-paid fuel.

The school district was able to qualify for additional incentives, such as the Innovative Motor Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Vehicle Credit, as identified by STA’s Innovation Team. This allowed STA to lower the total cost of the proposal to the school district, since the buses are a qualifying motor vehicle.

The district is the 12th largest in Colorado and serves 26 elementary schools, eight middle schools and five high schools, according to STA. STA will install and use new routing software for improvement and efficiencies in the operation.

“Blue Bird’s proven propane solution will save the district thousands of dollars per year, per bus,” said Trey Jenkins, vice president of alternative fuels for Blue Bird Corp. “In addition, we are delighted that this district was able to benefit from one of the many incentives that state and local authorities offer to alternative fuel vehicle solutions. We are excited to have Mesa County experience the industry’s best, and most cost-effective, alternative fuel system.”

While this is the first operation in Colorado for STA, they are experienced with other large propane autogas fleets, STA officials said.

"This is a great bid win for us and we are excited about expanding our operations in Colorado. We will be looking to show other school districts in the state how our public-private partnership can not only upgrade their fleet and improve service, but lower their cost of operation," said Don Kissell, senior vice president at STA. "Our talented team in operations is looking forward to getting started and forging a strong local relationship while drawing upon our years of experience and demonstrating our outstanding culture of compassion, caring and customer service.”

As an added feature, the district agreed to equip the vehicles with the new SafeStop mobile application that connects parents and school officials with vehicles transporting their students, according to STA. The app features a real-time bus locator with a mapping screen, predictive arrival times and a messaging area to display service updates to let parents and students know where the bus is and when it will be at the designated stops.

In the coming weeks, STA will be holding informational sessions with the current drivers and personnel who will be given the first opportunity to work for the company. STA will also recruit and hire additional personnel and drivers for growth in the area.

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