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franklin county times

New buses: RCS makes purchase, FCS awaits approval

School transportation might see a change in the Franklin County School system soon and is already in the process of changing in the Russellville City School system.

Propane buses are climbing the ladder in popularity over traditional diesel buses, according to transportation directors Alan Wilson (RCS) and Donald Borden (FCS).

“It’s not new technology, but over the last ten years it’s gotten better,” Wilson said. He put in his order to lease 10 propane buses from Southland International Nov. 16. The system is also buying two 2015 buses from Blue Bird.

Borden said the county system is still in the process of getting approval from the state to get the 44 buses they are applying for.

By law, a school system cannot purchase propane buses for more than 10 percent of its fleet at one time. Both school systems had to go through the process of getting a waiver signed approving them to receive the buses. RCS has already been approved; FCS is still waiting, because of the high number of buses requested.

“If we choose to go with the propane buses, we have to make the decision by the end of the year,” Borden said.

Both school systems’ fleet renewals end soon, which is one reason these two transportation directors chose this year to look into alternative fuel options.

“There are a lot of grant options out there with propane, and some companies like International will reimburse you $5,000 per bus,” Wilson said.

Another selling point that both Wilson and Borden said they liked is the upkeep and maintenance on propane buses is supposed to be cheaper than diesel buses. When they went to Tuscaloosa and test drove some of their propane buses, the mechanics there told them less maintenance was required, and parts like fuel filters cost less money, as compared to their diesel counterparts.

“The fuel is about $1 per gallon cheaper than diesel, and it doesn’t require diesel emission fluid like diesel buses do,” Wilson said.

With the propane buses, it is also cheaper to have fueling stations built on site – something Wilson said RCS doesn’t have for diesel buses.

Safety was one of their main concerns when looking into the propane buses, and Wilson said they discovered they were just as safe, if not safer, than diesel buses. He said that Amerigas did crash testing with propane buses, and they performed the same as diesel buses.

“Propane is an isolated system and has less chance of escape, where diesel doesn’t,” he said.

Wilson and Borden both said they were pleased with the power the propane buses exerted, and the buses’ performance during test drives was part of the selling point.

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