Montana School District Cuts Costs with Propane Buses

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When Columbia Falls School District Six began school last month, it joined over 900 other school districts across the nation transporting students in propane autogas buses.

The district, which serves Flathead County, Mont., purchased three Blue Bird Vision Propane buses after researching various alternative fuels, including electric and compressed natural gas. Nearby Browning Public Schools has operated propane school buses for five years.

“Our school board concluded that propane was the best price and fit for our needs,” says Steve Bradshaw, superintendent of Columbia Falls School District Six. “We are a cost-conscious community, and saving taxpayer dollars while reducing emissions is a priority for our school district.”

The school district pays $1.08/gallon for propane compared with $2.89/gallon for diesel, representing a savings of over 60%. The buses will also reduce maintenance expenses, offer a quieter ride and produce 96% fewer NOx emissions over diesel, says ROUSH CleanTech, which provides the buses’ propane fuel systems.

“Columbia Falls School District Six will experience noticeable cost and emissions savings with its new propane-powered buses,” says Ryan Zic, vice president of school bus sales for ROUSH CleanTech. “The district’s drivers will also enjoy how quiet they are, allowing them to focus on the students and the road ahead.”

The school district, which did not have space on its property to install fueling infrastructure, signed a fueling contract with CityServiceValcon, which built a station near the school at no charge to the district.

Zic, noting Montana’s “brutal” winters, adds that with propane buses, “there is no need to delay or close school in extreme temperatures because they start up and operate reliably in cold weather – up to negative 40 degrees.”

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