James Cook, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel, Operations and Pupil Services, recommended the school system invest in propane buses in June of last year. Since then the Westmoreland School System has purchased several propane buses. Last week after Westmoreland Board of Supervisors approved a transfer of instructional funds to purchase more, the school systems purchase of propane buses has risen to seven.
At a special meeting on June 21, on behalf of Westmoreland County Public Schools’, Superintendent Dr. Michael Perry requested the Board of Supervisors approve a transfer of $303,884 from the Instructional Category to the Pupil Transportation Category.
Last year Terry Rich, transportation supervisor for Westmoreland County and his three mechanics joined Cook for a trip to Spotsylvania County Schools for a site visit to see first-hand the operation of propane school buses.
Craig Krinshaw, director of fleet services for Spotsylvania County Schools, enlightened the group on many aspects of owning and operating propane powered buses.
Spotsylvania County Schools operate 365 school buses, 10 of which are propane-powered buses. The school system began purchasing propane buses six years ago.
Propane buses start immediately in cold weather; while drivers using diesel buses are waiting for their buses to warm up, the propane buses are leaving the bus lot. Propane buses are also very quiet, many parents report not being able hear the bus’ engine as it approaches as opposed to more noisy diesel engines.
Special training is needed before a driver can operate a propane bus, primarily training on how to fill the bus’ gas tanks. Special gear is required when filling the buses to protect the driver’s face and hands. A face mask and special gloves are used during fueling. With the purchase of each bus, in-house training is provided by the manufacturer.
The gas nozzle must be screwed on tightly before filling, rather than the standard nozzle that can be inserted into fuel pipe and left to fill. Each bus holds 98 gallons of fuel. This gives almost 200 miles to each tankful.
Although propane is more economical, the school will use diesel buses to transport students to and from games and field trips out of town because there are not enough fueling stations to ensure the trip.
Perry said, “We have a map of all the propane tanks in Virginia and Maryland, so we could use the propane buses, but we choose to use the diesel.”
The school system expects to take delivery of all seven buses next week.