• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

School district now has three propane-fueled buses

Students on two Northside Elementary School routes and one Huntertown Elementary School route are riding in propane-fueled buses during the 2019-20 school year, which began Aug. 8, according to the district’s chief operating officer. Woodford County Public Schools purchased two propane school buses this year after buying its first in June 2018, Amy Smith said. The Woodford County Board of Education gave its approval to purchase propane buses in September 2017. The cost to purchase the first bus was $97,561. The two buses purchased this year cost $102,920 and $97,561, Smith said in an email. Transportation Director Kay Penn said she drove a propane-fueled bus before the district purchased its first, and said it’s not as loud as a diesel bus. “The propane engine is so much quieter,” she explained. “It’s comparable to going from a diesel (pickup) truck to a gasoline pickup truck.” She said having a quieter bus also improves safety because students can hear a driver’s instructions better and a driver can hear them. Crittenden County Schools became the first Kentucky school district to use a propane-fueled school bus in 2013 as a pilot program, according to a Kentucky School Boards Association online article. One year later, other Kentucky school districts were allowed to purchase propane buses. Crittenden County Schools, whose transportation director said he was “thrilled with the cost savings of the propane-fueled bus we purchased last year,” used grant dollars to buy four more, an online article in School Transportation News stated. Based on last year’s fuel costs, Penn said diesel and propane buses got the same mileage, with the difference being a cost-savings in fuel. Woodford County schools’ per gallon cost for propane ($1.5839) is lower than diesel ($2.4938), Smith said. “I’ll have one of each (bus model): Thomas, Blue Bird and International so I’ll be able to compare” the mileage of each bus this year, Penn said. A diesel-fuel school bus costs from $90,000 to $140,000 – depending on how many passengers it can transport, Smith said. According to bus inventory data collected by the Kentucky Department of Education for the 2018-19 school year, Crittenden County Schools reported having the most propane-fueled buses in the state with 12. Other districts with propane buses (other than Woodford County) were Hardin County with six; Allen County with five; Bath, Gallatin and Mercer counties with three each; Martin County with two; and Johnson, Trimble and Warren counties with one each. By year, those districts purchased one propane bus in 2013 (Crittenden County Schools), two (both by Allen County) in 2014, six (all by Crittenden County) in 2015, 11 in 2016, seven in 2017, four in 2018 and five in 2019, according KDE’s inventory data. “One of the biggest differences and reason why districts are going more towards the propane is because it’s a cleaner fuel,” said Penn. Improved emission standards for a diesel engine have greatly reduced harmful fumes, but those costly upgrades and higher maintenance expenses are unnecessary with a propane-fueled bus, she said.

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