Propane Buses Boast Cost Savings, More Reliable Transportation for Students

First Student service manager Bruce Baker no longer shudders at the thought of pulling up to the pump.

"Fuel cost is about half, maintenance cost is dramatically reduced," Baker said.

He's talking about the 165 propane buses First Student operates in the state.

"This is a fantastic improvement for us. They start significantly easier," he said.

Assistant Director of Facilities and Transportation Operations Troy Schreifels with Osseo Schools estimates the switch to propane will save his district anywhere between $30,000 and $50,000 per bus over the next 10 years.

"So we can put that in the classroom for teachers and resources and supports," he said.

Osseo schools takes transportation funds out of the general operating budget so the savings would help the overall budget outlook.  However, some transportation directors believe propane buses are, at least, a partial answer to dozens of other district's transportation budget shortfalls. Still, the savings aren't the main reason more and more districts are making the switch.

"When it's 20 below zero and we're running school and we have a bus that's more than 10 minutes late, that's a concern for us so if we have a more reliable vehicle in the cold, that's better for our kids," said Director of Transportation for Anoka-Hennepin schools Keith Paulson. "It's more reliable.  It starts right up in the wintertime."

He just hopes First Student can get its hands on as many propane buses as possible as the popularity picks up speed.

"We're already talking about buying more for next year so we're already having that conversation," he said.

First Student is also looking to hire at least 80 drivers across the state.

They believe the driver shortage is due to a strengthening economy and fewer people looking for part-time work. All routes are currently covered but employees say there's a lot of juggling, including sending out office staff and maintenance workers to cover routes.

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