As kids get ready to head back to school, the fleet of buses are gassing up for the first day. If you live in Chesterfield, your student could be heading to class on a propane-fueled bus.
"We started with only two school buses the first year," said Jeff Jeter, Division Chief for Fleet Services.
Jeter is the driving force behind the county’s propane-fueled fleet – with the 60th propane powered vehicle hitting the road this week. The program now includes 26 school buses, which is saving money.
"On an average diesel bus for an oil change, is roughly 28 quarts of oil. On the propane, it's about seven quarts,” said Jeter.
It also saves the environment; the propane program has already reduced the county’s footprint by 1.7 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
"I want our land and water preserved, and I want my kids and grandkids to enjoy that,” shared the avid outdoorsman.
Jeter points to studies showing propane-powered buses help students and drivers with asthma and other health issues. He also stresses the safety of the vehicles.
“If you run into the side of the vehicle, it won’t explode. There are so many safety features on those vehicles, whether it be a patrol car, a bus, whatever. Different devices cut it off, if it's upside down, it's automatically shut down,” said Jeter. "I've got children. You want to make sure it's safe. We wouldn’t put anything unsafe in a school bus, that’s too precious a cargo."
Chesterfield is the leading county in the Commonwealth for the number of propane-powered buses – cycling them in as old buses need to be replaced. The program also fuels patrol cars, service vans, and other county cars, mostly funded by federal and state grants.
"To outfit a sheriff’s vehicle, it costs about $7,500 for the tank and equipment. Within 60 days, I get all that money back and give it to the client," said Jeter.
The county’s propane program is proving so successful, other counties in the Commonwealth are coming to Jeter for advice. He is also creating partnerships with other schools to make sure buses have a fueling location when out on field trips. He hopes to have 90 percent of the county’s fleet fueled by propane in the near future.
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