The last day of school was Thursday for Cassia County students and some rode home in style. The school district recently received three new propane-run buses. Jim Hamilton, the transportation supervisor for the school district, said they bought two in 2017. “We liked them so we bought three more this year. We just got them in last week,” Hamilton said. Out of 63 buses the school district has, they have five that run on propane.
A school district here added six propane school buses to its fleet for the 2017-18 school year, replacing some diesel buses, and has seen about $12,000 in savings so far. Since the School District of Holmen put the Blue Bird Vision propane buses into operation, it has saved over $2,000 per bus in maintenance and fueling costs, said Beth Hobbs, the transportation supervisor for the district.
In part two of Propane fleet, Roush CleanTech President Todd Mouw addresses his company’s recent deal with Schwan’s Home Services, one of its largest autogas contracts yet, and answers questions about the autogas market, including how it stacks up against the growing heavy-duty EV segment.
Schwan’s Home Service began using propane fueled trucks over 40 years ago and recently announced plans to add 200 more autogas trucks upfitted by Roush CleanTech. And they’re not stopping there. The Minnesota-based company plans on leasing an additional 400 propane trucks by year’s end. With most of the alternative fuel headlines focusing on electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, it’s worth remembering that autogas ranks as the third most popular fuel in the world.
Jack Roush has been fielding NASCAR entries for the past 31 years, and during that time his teams have amassed a NASCAR record 325 victories, while covering over 1.78 million miles in NASCAR action and bringing home eight championships. Roush’s lifetime of achievement was rewarded Wednesday evening, when he was named a member of the 2019 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Propane Specific Preventative Maintenance
Propane autogas vehicles do promise less maintenance requirements than diesel. But, that doesn’t mean that there are no maintenance requirements. We’ve put together the top three preventive maintenance guidelines you should be following. These will help keep your propane vehicles running smoothly.
Propane autogas fuel systems require much less maintenance than diesel fuel systems and are more comparable to gasoline fuel systems. It’s recommended that operators follow the same maintenance intervals and fluid specifications as called out by the OEM for the gasoline engine when operating a ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas fuel system.
The only additional maintenance items for our propane autogas fuel systems are fuel filters. One filter is added into the filling line on all generations of our fuel systems. Another one is the supply line filter between the fuel tank and engine on a Generation 4 style fuel system.
Both fuel filters are serviceable without draining the propane from the fuel tank. There are not any maintenance items within the fuel tank requiring it to be drained for any type of maintenance.
These filters are both recommended to be changed out every 50,000 miles.
If the operator notices a decreased filling rate on a unit as compared to others in the fleet, it could be a sign of a partially clogged filter and it should be replaced regardless of the vehicle’s mileage.
Fuel Tank – Corrosion and Refinishing
Propane autogas fuel tanks should be inspected for signs of surface rust or corrosion on an annual basis. If corrosion or surface rust are found, the fuel tank should be refinished to inhibit any further surface rust or corrosion from forming.
We’ve worked with our propane autogas tank suppliers to develop refinishing procedures. We also have a FAQ document which answers many common questions in regards to tank corrosion and tank inspection at https://roushcleantprd.wpengine.com/service-manuals/.
ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas fuel systems work with standard OBD II diagnostic equipment and require very minimal tooling to work on. However, we created a list of relatively low-cost special tools that we recommend you have in your shop. That list can be found at https://roushcleantprd.wpengine.com/training/.
We also have information on several types of propane transfer systems. These can be used to speed up the repair process when in-tank repairs are necessary and require the propane fuel to be drained from the tanks. There’s the ROUSH CleanTech Transfer System that uses in-tank fuel pumps plus two other manufacturers’ transfer systems we recommend. You can find out more at https://roushcleantprd.wpengine.com/training/.
We’ve also developed our own diagnostic software application, known as the ROUSH RDT tool. This tool is available to download for free. It’s like other OEM forms of diagnostic software and requires the use of one of our recommended pass-through devices to communicate between the vehicle and the computer. To download the free ROUSH RDT tool, or for more information about the recommended pass-through devices, visit https://roushcleantprd.wpengine.com/rdt/.
If you have any questions about preventive maintenance, please contact Mario Genovese at Mario.Genovese@roush.com.
In this 30-minute webinar, Todd Mouw presents on the benefits of switching to propane-powered vehicles. He will also discuss emission concerns, upcoming regulatory change, the VW Settlement and how all of these factors tie into what’s driving operators to convert their fleets to propane.
Volkswagen Update: May 2018
Every month we get closer and closer! Almost half of the state beneficiaries have drafted their Environmental Mitigation Trust plans. About half are still developing them. We are getting down to the finish line for making the case for propane school bus funding. If you haven’t reached out to your representative, now is the time.
As of May 2018:
Five states have final plans:
- Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Nebraska and Nevada
23 states have draft plans:
- Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin
23 states are still developing their plans and are accepting comments:
- Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming
Each state has been assigned a beneficiary, usually an environmental or energy government entity. A state listing can be found on the VW Settlement Clearinghouse website.
If your state falls into either of the last two categories, please contact Chelsea Jenkins at Chelsea.Jenkins@roush.com to discuss how best to approach your state agencies. We don’t want to miss this opportunity to get more funding for propane school buses!
Ride and Drive Attracts Over 10 School Districts
Last month, the parking lot at our headquareters in Livonia, Michigan, was full of school buses and more. That’s thanks to Holland Bus Company. Sales Manager Ken Haverkate was instrumental in hosting this ride and drive event where more than 10 school districts were in attendance.
In addition to the propane and gasoline bus ride and drives, the day was filled with additional learning opportunities. And, to add some excitement to the event, attendees could take a spin in a ROUSH Mustang and Raptor. Here’s what the day looked like:
- Tour of the ROUSH CleanTech manufacturing floor
- Overview of alternative fuels
- Ride & Drive (lunch provided)
- Demonstration of fueling
- Tour of ROUSH buildings, including fuel rail machining and dynamometer
If you’re interested in hosting an event like this at our Livonia, Michigan, headquarters, please reach out to your ROUSH CleanTech business development manager. Or use this agenda as inspiration to hold your own ride and drive event at your dealership to help increase your sales of propane buses.
Dealer Spotlight: Bryson Sales and Service
Dealer Spotlight: Bryson Sales and Service
Interviewee: Mark Turner
Title: Lead Salesman
Last year, Mark Turner, lead salesman of Bryson Sales and Service, created a new initiative to help sell propane school buses. He observed that new propane sales had flattened or leveled with his current approach. So, Mark decided that he wanted to not only target the transportation directors and mechanics, but also hit a new group — the folks who manage the money.
To turn his attention toward these school business officials or “economic buyers,” Mark set his sights on the Utah Association of School Business Officials meeting. Representatives from across the state would be gathered at one place and he could present to a wide audience in a short amount of time. He secured a guest speaking spot at the meeting, which was co-presented by ROUSH CleanTech.
Mark feels that school business officials are most receptive to the cost of ownership message of propane. He’s definitely on to something as Bryson Sales and Service has doubled its propane customer base in one year with the help of this approach. And, he’s already been invited back next year to speak at the school business officials meeting!
Yet, he cautions that dealers need to educate all levels of leadership at the district to make it happen. That means leveraging from a top down and bottom up approach. Talk total cost of ownership of propane buses with the economic buyers. They know that schools and taxpayers benefit from the lower operating cost of a propane school bus. For the transportation directors, the pitch should be geared toward making it simple. And for mechanics, they want to be wowed by the ease of maintaining a propane school bus. Techs and transportation directors tend to be focused on the simplest solution.
As Mark noticed, the school bus conversation has changed with the introduction of gasoline. He suggests getting in front of the money managers to make the case for propane.
If you’re interested in learning more about leveraging this new audience, please contact your Blue Bird or ROUSH CleanTech sales rep. And, if you can get in front of people like those at the Utah Association of School Business Officials, contact Ryan Zic at Ryan.Zic@roush.com to discuss sponsorship options.