to be effective. “The drivers love them, the mechanics love them, and the pas- sengers love them,” he added. On winning the Green Bus award,

Jezersek said he was “quite excited” to hear the news. “Especially being a Canadian company, so removed from everything,” he added. “It was wonderful.” Durham School Services’ Norwalk,

Connecticut, operation won the Small Private Fleet category. Johanna Zan- vettor, transportation coordinator for Norwalk Public Schools, said the district switched to Durham from a vendor of more than 20 years because of propane. “We were using diesel with our pre-

vious vendor, so this is our first time using propane buses,” Zanvettor ex- plained. “We had the option of phasing in the propane buses or going with a full fleet. We chose the full fleet because that was the most cost-effective, and our superintendent wanted to move forward with the full green initiative.” She said the board decided to go

with propane after a presentation made two years ago to the administration by Hocon Gas, a local propane supplier in 2019. “Our administration was very interested, so we moved forward and added it in our bid,” Zanvettor said. It helped that Durham’s bid was 6

percent less than what the district spent on transportation for the 2019-2020 school year.

The change was not without its

challenges. Zanvettor shared that Durham is using portable fueling tanks until construction is completed on permanent fueling stations. Add a new administration, new bus routes, new bell times, and COVID-19. “We were also short 19 drivers,” she shared. Zanvettor said Norwalk is currently

operating 58 large Blue Bird propane buses and 10 small Micro Bird buses. Chip Johnson, the business devel-

opment manager for Durham New England, added that because of the lack of propane infrastructure elsewhere, Norwalk retains six diesel fuel buses to transport students for longer field trips and sporting events.

Follow the Leaders The news earlier this year that First

Student and NextEra Energy Resources, LLC are pursuing the electrification of 43,000 school transportation vehicles across the U.S. and Canada certainly turned heads. First Student also ran electric pilots in

several states in 2019. A news release in January announcing the latest project said the collaboration could accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles. Meanwhile, the second largest con-

tractor fleet is also testing the electric waters with a five-bus project in White Plains, New York. National Express, the owner of Durham School Services, seeks to transfer power from the bus batteries to the area’s power grid. That program, one of several around the country, is in its infancy and it’s too early to report any solid results. But again, propane is where the ma-

jority of expertise lies. National Express also operates 400 propane school buses in its fleet of 19,000 school buses across North America. Keshav Ragunathan, senior director of asset management and engineering for National Express, said the company’s propane buses are operating in six states. He added the company’s 140 CNG buses continue to operate in six California cities.

34 School Transportation News • JUNE 2021

Student Transportation of America was an early adopter of propane but also continues to operate a remnant CNG fleet as well as develop electric buses.

Diesel-powered school bus production still dominates the student transportation landscape, but the margin is shrinking. According to figures compiled for the STN 2020 Buyer’s Guide, 26,897 diesel school buses were manufactured the year prior, compared to 11,446 gasoline buses, 3,236 propane buses, 423 CNG buses, and 245 electric buses. The numbers reported in this year’s Buyer’s Guide were down slightly in nearly all categories because of COVID-19, with 22,021 diesel buses manufactured compared to 10,220 gasoline, 2,602 propane, and 175 CNG. The notable change was the jump in electric bus production to 396 units.

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