Messa Public Schools moves toward propane-fueled buses

Mesa Public Schools in Arizona has added 61 more school buses to its fleet fueled by clean burning, cost-effective and domestically produced propane autogas. The school district's goal is to operate the first all-propane-autogas school bus fleet in the nation.

Mesa Public Schools has purchased 55 Blue Bird Propane-Powered Vision 77-passenger school buses and six 42-passenger wheelchair-accessible buses to increase their propane autogas bus total to 89. The school district — the largest in Arizona — expects to save $4.43 million in operating costs over a five-year period.

"We are fortunate to have bond funds for this purchase. But moving forward, the funds for new bus acquisitions will come from the unbelievable fuel savings we experience from our existing propane autogas buses," said Ron Latko, director of transportation for Mesa Public Schools. "We are saving 37.7 cents per mile in operating costs; anyone who works with school fleets can appreciate that substantial number."

Mesa Public Schools, which transports more than 20,000 students daily, spent years researching alternative fuels before choosing propane autogas. In addition to cost savings, the alternatively fueled buses will significantly reduce emissions. According to Latko, the fleet will reduce greenhouse gases by 2,789 tons this coming year due to the cleaner-burning properties of propane autogas.  Recently recognized as a Clean Air Champion by the state of Arizona, Mesa will make additional purchases to replace aging diesel buses as needed.

"Blue Bird school buses fueled by propane autogas reduce emissions, lower operating costs, decrease noise and make use of an abundant, domestic alternative fuel," said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. "The Propane-Powered Vision is a smart choice for any school system, and Mesa Public Schools is a leader in affirming that this clean fuel reduces the total cost of ownership."

The Blue Bird Propane-Powered Vision, equipped with a Roush CleanTech propane autogas fuel system and a Ford 6.8-liter engine, meets all Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board certifications.  It is customizable for up to 78 passengers.

"These propane autogas buses have surpassed our expectations in how smooth and effortless they run and how easy they are to service. The quality and reliability have been outstanding.  We plan to keep coming back for more until we are 100-percent propane powered," said Latko, a recipient of the Green Fleet magazine Sustainable All-Stars Award.

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