Propane Autogas Provides Solutions To Long-Standing Industry Pain Points
In the early 2010s, Student Transportation of America, Inc. (STA), one of the largest bus contractors in the United States, set goals to become the leader in green technology by offering an alternative fuel bus option for school districts. STA recognized that propane autogas not only provides several environmental benefits, but it also delivers the lowest total cost-of-ownership of any fuel, allowing STA to invest their savings into several areas, including increasing drivers’ salaries to combat a growing epidemic of driver shortages many areas are dealing with across the country.
STA signed its first propane autogas bus contract with Omaha Public Schools for a total of 424 school buses. Since then, they’ve signed hundreds of propane contracts and have placed more than 2,500 propane-autogas-powered buses on the roads — accounting for nearly one-eighth of all propane-autogas-powered school buses operating in the U.S. in 2019.
STA senior vice president, Doug Gallagher, says school districts appreciate that the propane autogas buses provide a clean, safe ride to and from school and activities for students. In cities where reducing emissions is a major initiative (a growing list, to be sure), Gallagher says the propane-autogas-powered buses have helped STA secure more contracts. What’s more, in cities that experience extreme winter weather, Gallagher says the propane autogas buses have been a major selling point because the fuel doesn’t gel like diesel and cause cold start issues.
EQUIPMENT FLEET PROFILE:
- 2,500 Propane autogas Blue Bird and IC buses used nationwide
- 15% of the fleet is propane autogas, and STA will continue to add buses as school districts contract for the fuel
STA pays about $1 per gallon of propane compared to $3 per gallon of diesel.
STA has improved driver retention and recruitment, not only because drivers are interested in driving propane autogas buses, but also because STA is investing the money they saved into drivers’ pay.
STA has significantly reduced its nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in its propane autogas fleets compared to diesel, creating a cleaner environment for students.
NO WARM UP
During the polar vortex of 2018, STA’s propane autogas school buses were starting with no additional warm up time needed. Meanwhile, neighboring school districts operating diesel buses had to cancel school because the buses wouldn’t start.