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Murray Journal

Murray School District to introduce ‘green’ buses

Aug 17, 2018 02:47PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Murray School District is the first district in the Salt Lake Valley to purchase propane school buses, which are designed to have cleaner emissions. (D Wright/Murray School District)

By Julie Slama | [email protected] 

When school bus No.11 rolls up to pick up Parkside Elementary students for school this fall, they may not notice a green emblem on the side of the Blue Bird bus indicating it is powered by propane. 

Bus 11, which also transports Hillcrest Junior High and Murray High students, is one of two propane buses that Murray School District purchased and will use this fall. The other bus is dedicated to special needs students, said Rock Boyer, District director of support services. 

“Most people won’t be able to tell the difference, although it is a lot quieter bus,” he said. 

Murray School District is the first district in the Salt Lake Valley to purchase propane school buses. 

After investigating for one year, Boyer said the District decided to purchase two propane buses to try out this school year as some of their 23 diesel bus fleet were getting older. However, after talking to some other districts in the state that use propane buses, the benefits seem great, Boyer said. 

“With our state contract, the cost of the regular bus was about $15,000 less and the special needs bus, which has a lift and room for three wheelchairs, is about $20,000 less,” he said. “We’ll also be able to save on fuel.” 

Boyer said that propane costs about $1.19 per gallon while diesel is about $3 per gallon. The district also installed a 1,000-gallon tank so they can fuel up on site as well as use the propane for other equipment. 

However, a big plus is using a clean fuel, which Boyer said is better for the environment.

“We are committed with every possible way to do our part to help the environment. We’ve tried to cut back idling in the schools, retrofitted some of our diesel school buses, and have energy-efficient programs in our buildings,” he said. 

Murray Board of Education member Glo Merrill echoes that pledge. 

“We are all very excited that these buses will help our environment,” she said. “We are concerned about the air quality, especially on inversion days when some of the students who have asthma can’t go outside, so we want to do our own little part to help out the air quality to take care of our earth and health.” 

Mark Turner, new bus sales manager with Bryson Sales and Service Inc., said that the buses purchased by the district are the fourth generation buses, which use fluid propane rather than vapor, and that makes it even cleaner than earlier versions. 

Another plus, he said, is that there are reports of fewer maintenance problems. 

“The propane buses have 27 less components in the system compared to those using diesel, so that means less wear on items that could have problems, like the turbo, cooler and after-treatment device, which are all common to needing repair,” he said. 

The fuel tanks also are safer, being 20 times more puncture resistant than a typical fuel tank. It also is fitted with safety devices and shut-off valves that function automatically. 

Number 11 accommodates one less student at a capacity of 83 compared to its former diesel bus, as the emergency door is in the rear rather than the side. Its engine, in the front instead of in a rear diesel bus, has its drive line and exhaust line in its underbelly, which does reduce some of the luggage capacity, Turner said. 

However, the buses are better suited to the cold weather than the diesels, starting up at temperatures around 40 below zero Fahrenheit, he said. 

Boyer said that more school districts are looking at options instead of just purchasing diesel buses, including Jordan School District which recently introduced natural gas buses to its fleet. However, he added that Murray District is being cautious. 

“We’ll pilot these for the year and then decide on how they perform, their driveability, maintenance and cost before we commit to replacing more of our fleet with propane,” Boyer said. “By using a clean and affordable alternative fuel, we believe we’ll be able to cut down on emissions and still provide reliable transportation to our students.”