School districts in Georgia and Indiana have taken steps to provide the students they transport with a healthier ride to and from school by running buses on propane, and they are reportedly seeing financial benefits as well.

Hall County Schools in Gainesville, Ga., was recognized last week by state legislators and dignitaries, including Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, as Georgia’s first school district to power its fleet with the clean-burning fuel.

The theme of the event was “Georgians supporting Georgians for a greener community,” and it emphasized the need to produce and use products that support a clean and healthy environment, by and for the state of Georgia.

Officials said that Hall County Schools purchased 20 Blue Bird Propane-Powered Vision school buses to reduce the community’s carbon footprint and lower the county’s costs for school bus fuel and maintenance.

In addition, the Propane-Powered Vision is manufactured in Georgia and features a ROUSH CleanTech liquid propane fuel system. It reduces nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and total hydrocarbons emissions, and virtually eliminates particulate matter when compared to school buses powered by conventional fuels.

"We chose propane autogas because not only does it represent significant reduced fuel costs and clean-burning properties, but also because the source, natural gas, is in abundant supply right here in America," said William Schofield, superintendent of Hall County Schools. "With today's tight school budgets, using a transportation fuel that saves taxpayers money, keeps the environment clean and keeps jobs within our national borders is a win-win for everyone. Plus, our drivers love how quiet the propane buses perform."

“Schools across the nation are experiencing the environmental and economic benefits of Blue Bird’s propane buses,” added Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corp. “We are proud to deliver a bus that not only provides school children with a reliable, safe and environmentally-friendly ride to and from school every day, but also fuels economic development in Georgia. We are especially thankful to our partner and dealer, Yancey Bus Sales and Service, for their terrific support of all Blue Bird’s customers throughout Georgia.”

Compared to a $3.50 per gallon cost for diesel, officials said Hall County pays less than $2 per gallon to fuel with propane. The school district expects to save $36,000 in fuel costs for its 20 new propane buses in 2012.

Tippecanoe School Corp. (TSC) in Lafayette, Ind., will deploy the state’s first Blue Bird Propane-Powered Vision buses prior to summer break.  

Like Hall County Schools, TSC pays less than $2 per gallon for propane ($1.94) compared to nearly $4 for diesel. Officials said that these cost savings free up funding to be allocated toward other programs to enrich the community’s schoolchildren.

TSC worked with three organizations to purchase the alternative-fuel buses: Blue Bird dealer MacAllister Power Systems, propane distributor Ferrellgas and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Greater Indiana Clean Cities Coalition.

TSC received a $52,600 grant from the Indiana Office of Energy Development for its propane initiatives, and business owners donated services during the installation of a 1,000-gallon propane refueling station for the buses. The county plans to install an additional refueling tank in the near future.

“TSC opened the doors to communication between everyone involved in our adoption of propane autogas," said Kevin Neafie, transportation director of TSC. "Our drivers are on board knowing they have a bus that is more comfortable and quieter to drive, our community is on board knowing the children are transported safely and their taxpayer dollars are being stretched further, and the district is on board knowing everyone involved is benefiting from the switch.”

“It’s exciting to see Tippecanoe School Corp. make the move toward propane autogas following what the state of Indiana’s Department of Transportation has done with the installation of 115 refueling dispensers across the state,” added Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing at ROUSH CleanTech. “School district adoption of this technology is a natural next step in the state’s push toward alternative fuels, specifically propane autogas.”