Neosho school district opens up to propane fueled school buses

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NEOSHO, Mo. – In an effort to save funds for transportation, the Neosho school district has turned to an alternative form of fuel as they have obtained 18 propane-fueled buses. Citing government budget cuts and cheaper means of fuel, Neosho has taken inspiration from numerous school districts across the country.

Propane acts as an efficient alternative fuel for public transportation as it is known abroad for being readily available and cheaper than traditional fossil fuels such as diesel and gasoline. Propane is known as “liquefied petroleum gas” (LPG) and typically labeled as “autogas” when referring to its use in vehicles. The transition from diesel to propane buses offer a streamlined and cost-effective method of travel for students as the school district refrains from any extraneous spending.

“We saved $19,000 for mileage ran on propane buses this year compared to the same number of miles driven by our own diesel buses,” said Michelle Embrey, transportation director for Neosho school district. “And that does not take into consideration the $24,000 we have coming back to us for the alternative fuels credit.”

In a case study created by the U.S. Department of Energy, the financial benefits for propane powered vehicles show a significant amount money that was saved through their use. According to the study, “These [bus] fleets have saved between $400 and $3,000 per propane bus per year, with the range of savings dependent on the fuel prices and the maintenance cost savings realized.”

The study later continued to express that some school districts saved close to 50 percent on a cost per mile basis for fuel and maintenance.

With majority of school districts choosing propane buses for financial reasons, it’s important to take into account that the average price of propane autogas costs 40 to 50 percent less than diesel. According to school bus manufacturer, Blue Bird, districts can save up to an average of $2,000 to $2,500 per bus year on fuel and maintenance cost. By replacing diesel buses and adding propane buses, school districts could benefit from the savings.

Some district and state agencies are taking notice. The South Carolina Department of Education recently added 26 propane buses. Formerly, the department’s diesel buses cost 49 cents per mile but new projections show the propane buses will reduce costs to 21 cents per mile.

Beyond sparing financial expenses, Neosho also includes several other reasons for carrying on with the addition of 18 propane buses. Embrey cited lower emissions, reduced noise levels of the bus and comfort of the students as additional benefits. She added the Neosho district is “extremely happy with our propane buses.”

As Missouri budget cuts take their toll on school transportation, school districts are looking for cheaper alternatives to avoid overspending. This is where investing in propane autogas could be the solution. Districts could meet the limitations set by budget cuts while at the same time provide safe student transportation that is beneficial to the community at large.

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