Across the Country School Bus Fleet Managers Find Safety, Savings, and Environmental Quality with Propane

[October 4, 2000]

Washington, DC - As National School Bus Safety Week approaches (October 15-21, 2000), the Propane Education & Research Council (the Council) wants to inform school bus fleet managers of the "exceptional" safety, cost, and environmental benefits that propane fuel offers over other alternative fuels.
"The benefits of choosing propane to fuel school bus fleets are clear," explains Roy Willis, president of the Propane Education & Research Council. "In addition to propane being clean-burning, efficient and cost-effective, fleet managers can feel good about choosing propane because they trust it to bring children to and from school safely," added Willis.

Propane is the most widely used motor fuel in the world behind gasoline and diesel, and the U.S. Department of Energy reports that propane fuels over 1,400 school buses nationwide. Fleet managers are realizing that the safety of propane is just one of its many advantages. According to Steve Jaeger, Petroleum Engineer and Director of Technical Services Training for the Texas Railroad Commission's Alternative Fuels Research and Education Division, steel construction makes propane vehicle tanks four to six times more puncture resistant than a typical gasoline tank. Propane also has the lowest flammability range of the leading alternative fuels, and the low storage pressure of propane, 17 times less pounds per square inch (pps) than compressed natural gas, complements the tank strength.

Randy Zanatta, vehicle maintenance supervisor for the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, has experienced the safety benefits of using propane tanks in his district's fleet of school buses. "In one incident, our bus collided with another vehicle. The incident resulted in minimal damage to the bus and propane tank," Zanatta said.

"Most gasoline tanks aren't made as strong as propane tanks. We have had buses come out of accidents with dents in the fuel tanks. No matter how big the dent, the propane tanks never leak or fracture," commented John Benton, fleet mechanic for the Portland Public School District in Oregon.

Other fleet managers are finding that the efficiency of propane compared to other alternative fuels reap financial benefits. Propane costs for fleet vehicles range from 5 to 30 percent less than the costs of conventional or reformulated gasoline. For instance, The U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) calculates that propane operates at 74 percent of gasoline's energy per gallon - a rating compressed natural gas tanks can match only if they are three times larger than propane tanks. The Battelle Memorial Institute, in its Fleet Economics Report, found that propane is the most economical alternative fuel for fleets when comparing operating, ownership, and infrastructure costs on a per mile basis.

Oregon's Portland School District converted its buses from gasoline to propane in the early 1980's. Since the conversion, the district has saved an estimated $155,800 annually on fuel. The Alvin Independent School District, located near Houston, Texas, saved $41,000 on fuel costs in 1999, and the Northside Independent School District (San Antonio, TX), which currently operates 440 propane-powered school buses, has realized annual fuel savings of about $220,000 (when compared with gasoline).

In addition to savings, propane has been lauded as an environmentally friendly alternative fuel. The AFDC reports that propane has 60 percent less combined carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions than reformulated gasoline. Propane is also listed as an approved alternative fuel in the 1990 Clean Air Act and the Energy Policy Act of 1992.

The Propane Education & Research Council was authorized by the U.S. Congress with the passage of the Public Law 104-284, the Propane Education and Research Act (PERA), signed into law on October 11, 1996. The mission of the Council is to promote the safe, efficient use of odorized propane gas as a preferred energy source. For more information, please contact the Council at 202-452-8975 or visit the web site at