Montana school district chooses propane buses

September 19, 2019 By    

When Columbia Falls School District Six began school last month in Columbia Falls, Montana, it joined over 900 other school districts across the nation transporting students in clean-operating, economical propane school buses.

Propane autogas school buses

Columbia Falls School District Six purchased three Blue Bird Vision Propane buses after researching various alternative fuels. Photo courtesy of Roush CleanTech

The district purchased three Blue Bird Vision Propane buses after researching various alternative fuels, including electric and compressed natural gas.

“Our school board concluded that propane was the best price and fit for our needs,” says Steve Bradshaw, superintendent of Columbia Falls School District Six. “We are a cost-conscious community, and saving taxpayer dollars while reducing emissions is a priority for our school district.”

Nearby Browning Public Schools has operated propane school buses with success for five years.

On average, propane autogas costs about 50 percent less than diesel fuel. The Columbia Falls school district pays $1.08 for propane compared with $2.89 for diesel, a savings of over 60 percent. The district also will reduce its maintenance expenses because propane buses do not require costly and complex after-treatment systems required for diesel buses. In addition, the propane buses will help clear the air around its students and the community.

“Columbia Falls School District Six will experience noticeable cost and emissions savings with its new propane-powered buses,” says Ryan Zic, vice president of school bus sales for Roush CleanTech, the propane fuel system manufacturer. “The district’s drivers will also enjoy how quiet they are, allowing them to focus on the students and the road ahead.”

The district needed a plan to fuel the buses, but did not have space on its property to install infrastructure. The district signed a fueling contract with CityServiceValcon, which built a propane fuel station near the school at no charge to the school district. The propane provider also trained the district’s bus drivers on fueling.

“Montana winters can be brutal. With propane buses, there is no need to delay or close school in extreme temperatures because they start up and operate reliably in cold weather – up to negative 40 degrees,” Zic says.

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About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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