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YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CREATE CHANGE

Think about how much time the student in your life spends on a school bus. While many students take the bus every weekday, we don’t often talk about the quality of their buses, or how buses affect learning — or, our communities.

If you’re a parent, guardian, educator, or are somehow involved in a student’s day-to-day, you can make a positive impact on their future by advocating for better school transportation.

PROPANE SCHOOL BUSES 101

School buses powered by clean, American propane aren’t new to the scene. In fact, they’ve been relied on by some U.S. districts for decades. In recent years, manufacturers have dedicated more resources to expanding propane school bus technology, and school districts are quickly choosing propane over diesel. Why?

It’s Cleaner.

Much, much cleaner. Picture the height of a younger student compared to the height of a bus tailpipe. That student typically faces a cloud of diesel smoke, inhaling harmful diesel particulate matter. The particulate matter in diesel exhaust is an identified carcinogen (or, capable of causing cancer) that also aggravates asthma and other breathing issues.

It Saves Money.

Money that can go right back into your student’s classroom. Modern diesel buses can drain a transportation department’s budget due to the extra components required to keep them operating cleanly, on top of generally higher fuel costs. Propane is already a low-emissions fuel, and doesn’t require schools to pay for these extra components. Historically, propane also costs less at the pump than diesel, even as fuel prices fluctuate.

It’s Quieter.

With propane, loud, smelly school buses are a thing of the past. Propane engines operate noticeably quieter than diesel, which has a significant impact on students’ safety. In a quieter bus, the driver can concentrate — on the road ahead, and on their passengers. Imagine how much faster a driver can respond to a bullying situation if they can hear it happening. On top of improving safety, propane buses provide a calm start to the school day to help students pay better attention in the classroom.

“The buses are so quiet. When our wheelchair buses are picking up, outside the bus ambient noise level is about 90 decibels for a diesel bus. It’s so noisy that you can’t hear yourself think. Propane buses really reduce the stress level in a chaotic situation.” – Peter Crossan, Fleet & Compliance Manager, Boston Public Schools Department of Transportation.

SAFETY & PROPANE BUSES

“It’s just so quiet. The kids aren’t so noisy; they don’t have to talk so loud. And for me, now I can hear what’s on the outside of the bus, too.”

Carol Patchen

Driver

St. Francis Independent School District 15

Propane buses have been trusted for their safety since the 1980’s. Like conventionally fueled buses, they meet rigorous U.S. FMVSS and Canadian CMVSS motor vehicle safety standards. The fuel also does not ignite easily — 940 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to 500 degrees for gasoline. Propane is an approved fuel listed in the 1990 Clean Air Act; it’s non-poisonous to humans and non-toxic to the environment. It poses no harm to groundwater, surface water, or soil.

Because of their noticeably quieter operation compared with diesel, propane buses create a safe environment for passengers and their driver. On a quieter bus, the driver can be more alert to hazards outside the bus — like emergency vehicles — and their passengers’ needs.

SAVINGS & YOUR STUDENT

When a district switches from diesel to propane, it’s in a better position to afford more instructors, classroom supplies, or extracurricular activities. According to Jerry Bartee, assistant superintendent of Omaha Public Schools, with the more than $200,000 a year saved with their propane buses, the district would be able to hire up to five teachers a year to work with students. At a time when school district budgets are shrinking, propane school buses could help ensure a brighter future for students. What could your school do with extra money for the classroom?

“…$200,000…that’s four to five classroom teachers a year that we can hire.”

Jerry Bartee

Assistant Superintendent

Omaha Public Schools

TALKING TO YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT

School districts typically adopt propane school buses in the process of replacing older diesel buses. Chances are, your local district is planning to phase out their older diesel buses within a couple of years. As they look at their choices, would you rather they stick with diesel — or switch to a cleaner option that supports students for years to come?

You can play an important role in this decision by making your voice heard. Even if your district isn’t looking to change buses soon, your voice will make a difference when the time comes. Talking to your school district could be as easy as emailing or writing a letter to your district transportation office.

In your message, keep it short and simply list what’s important to you. Some thought-starters include:

  • What kind of buses does our school district currently use?
  • Are there plans in the near future to replace our older buses?
  • Are propane school buses in consideration for the future?
  • The importance of quieter operation for students’ safety.
  • The impact of better savings in the transportation department to affect the classroom.
  • How reduced harmful emissions could help improve your community.

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