Jan. 26, 2016

Mesa Unified School District Reaps Economic and Environmental Benefits with Propane Buses

Propane is clean and runs well, and we would like more buses. We eventually hope to be switching to an entire propane fleet.      
Jeanne Vandemark, Director of Transportation, Mesa Unified School District, Mesa, Arizona

Mesa Unified School District in Mesa, Arizona is an example of a fleet taking advantage of both the economic and environmental benefits of propane. In 2011, rather than invest in diesel buses, Mesa turned to propane after finding that buses equipped with diesel technologies such as diesel particulate filters experienced more breakdowns and costly repairs than the district's older diesel buses. The district transports 19,000 students a collective 36,000 miles per day, so reliability is a must.

The decision to purchase 90 propane buses has paid off, saving Mesa $0.38 per mile with anticipated savings of $3.2 million over five years. These savings are a combination of low propane pricing and reduced maintenance costs thanks to fewer oil changes and engine failures. The district also realized emissions inspections savings, as new propane vehicles are exempt from initial emissions inspections in Arizona. While the district's fuel prices change weekly according to the commodity price, a market cap insures the cost to fill Mesa's two 18,000-gallon tanks and one 1,000-gallon tank will remain at least 30% less than the cost of diesel fuel (without additional incentives that may lower the price further).

Jeanne Vandemark, Mesa's Director of Transportation, hopes to transition the school bus fleet of more than 500 to propane. Other districts in the Phoenix area have taken notice of these savings as well; 13 neighboring districts are now testing or running propane buses.

As Vandemark notes, "When you look at propane and you look at the facts, it is surprising that more fleets do not use propane buses. It's up to us to know the facts and educate others."

"At the end of the day, everyone wants to keep their own child safe, but we're responsible for caring for all the students. This is one reason why we use propane."

Photo of a yellow school bus with the door to the bus open.