School Buses Going Green: The Push for Alternative Fuel
published on December 08, 2015 by Sonia Mastros
Though school buses have not always been known for their fuel efficiency, many school districts across the U.S. and Canada have been making the switch to alternative fuel sources and environmentally friendly transportation management system options. This shift not only benefits the environment, it’s providing cost-saving perks to districts.
Alternative fuel sources are heralded as a healthier substitute for all children, especially those with health concerns, such as asthma. For children with special needs, who might take longer to get on and off a vehicle, the risk of breathing in air contaminated by diesel fuel produced by an idling bus engine is intensified.
Unfortunately, this exposure is not limited to a child's time outside of a running bus. Fumes inhaled while inside buses have also been linked to adverse side-effects.
Though a majority of school buses still use diesel, more and more are utilizing biodiesel, a renewable, cleaner burning alternative. Made from feedstock like recycled cooking oils and animal fats, biodiesel offers an immediate positive impact to the environment and doesn’t require engine modification, so it can be used with older buses.
Compressed Natural Gas
Many major school districts are now introducing compressed natural gas (CNG) buses to their fleets. CNG tanks have a large capacity, which makes them ideal for longer trips. This alternative fuel is popular with larger districts because of the money saving impact, though districts with access to their own fueling stations have reaped the most benefits.
Perhaps the most talked about alternative fuel source for school buses is propane. In fact, 19 of the top 25 bus markets now have propane buses in their fleets. Though the cost of propane powered school buses is slightly higher, the cost to fuel them is lower.
Though propane buses are certainly cleaner, they also offer an additional benefit. Many drivers note that they are quieter than their diesel counterparts. In comparison with other buses that run on alternative fuel, propane buses are also less expensive, making them a reasonable choice for many fleets.
Utilizing alternative fuels is certainly cleaner for the environment, so it’s easy to see why districts are being pushed to make the switch. With thoughtful planning and appropriate resources, alternative fuel use can indeed lead to safer, less expensive rides for students.
Consulting an industry expert will help your district make choices that benefit your students and the environment. If your district is considering a more effective transportation management system, such as school bus routing software, we’d love to hear about it.
Learn more about measures you can take to increase the efficiency of your bus routes by checking out our tip sheet page, "Ask Yourself These 5 Questions Concerning Route Optimization" using the link below.