The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) presented the inaugural Leadership with Propane Autogas Awards at the STN EXPO last month in recognition of school districts that have demonstrated a commitment to sustainable practices through the use of propane autogas school buses.
The three recipients were Houston Independent School District, the East Sac County Community School District in Iowa and Mobile County Public Schools in Alabama.
“The 2016 leadership with propane autogas award recipients have impacted their communities by choosing clean, affordable, domestically-produced propane autogas fuel for their fleets and I’m very proud to recognize them today,” said Bill Platz, president of Delta Liquid Energy, who presented the awards during an STN EXPO Clean Cities general session on July 26.
Houston ISD’s fleet currently includes 123 propane school buses, with plans to add 40 more in the near future. The district first integrated propane buses in 2011, with the initial purpose or reducing emissions, as the Houston area has strict pollution policies. Andres Montes, one of the district’s fleet operations shop managers who accepted the award on behalf of the district, said that switching to propane had led to savings in maintenance costs.
“Fuel savings has been the primary benefit, combined with lower maintenance costs for an overall savings of up to $3,000 per bus per year,” he said.
Phil Howes, director of transportation for the East Sac County Community School District, was also present to accept his district’s award.
“It is quite an honor to receive the first ever award. As we were one of the first in NW Iowa to start using propane, it was a commitment that I am glad we took on,” he said. “We will continue to use it to save our district taxpayer money.”
The district bought propane buses primarily due to the often-harsh weather conditions in Iowa. With diesel buses, drivers had to idle for long periods of time during the winter, which wasted fuel and caused wear on the engine and emissions system components. Howes said the district saves as much as $8,000 per year on decreased fuel and maintenance costs.
“I eventually plan on switching our whole fleet over to propane,” he said.
Pat Mitchell, director of transportation at Mobile County Public Schools was not able to accept the award in person but he submitted a video message played during the ceremony.
“This is a huge deal for us and we are so honored,” he said.
The MCPS distict runs 80 propane buses, over 10 percent of its fleet.
“We anticipate purchasing more,” said Mitchell.
“School districts across the country are realizing the tremendous benefits associated with operating propane school buses,” commented Michael Taylor, PERC’s director of autogas business development. “These three award-winning districts are saving money, helping the environment, and being good stewards of their community and constituents by transitioning their school bus fleets to propane buses.”
Editor's note — PERC and STN intend to make the awards an annual event, with potential plans to further open up the nominations.
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