CHS retail location drives demand for propane-powered school buses
From left: Lance Gerry, school mechanic, Harrisburg, S.D.; Russ Nelson, school mechanic, Lennox, S.D.; and Eric Kracke, CHS certified energy specialist, are advocates of the transition to propane-fueled school buses. Propane buses, shown here in front of the 12,000-gallon bullet at the Harrisburg fill station, can be identified by the green bird emblem on the front of the bus (the bird is typically blue on diesel-powered buses).
School buses are a growing market for propane autogas as school districts realize the economic, environmental, health and safety benefits of propane-fueled buses. CHS ag retail locations managed out of Brandon, S.D., have been advocating for school districts to switch their school bus fleets from diesel to propane for several years, and five area school districts now have propane school buses – Brookings, Elkton, Harrisburg, Lennox and Tea – with more to come.
“It’s really a win-win,” says Andy Ernst, marketing manager, CHS Propane. “It’s an opportunity for CHS to increase our propane volume while helping school systems transition to a cleaner-burning fuel that’s easier on their equipment and safer for the children they transport.”
In addition to helping school districts save money, propane autogas reduces emissions, allows buses to start at colder temperatures, heats the interior of a bus faster during cold winter months and allows drivers to hear what’s happening on and off the bus.
“Schools that are transitioning to propane usually start with one or two buses in their fleet, then gradually phase out all of their diesel buses,” says Eric Kracke, CHS certified energy specialist, who is working to transition buses in several nearby school districts to propane autogas. “With the help of Andy Ernst and CHS, we have been installing the schools’ own autogas fill stations because filling on-site may allow schools to take advantage of tax benefits, and we also provide safety training. In addition, we currently have one school filling at the local Ace Hardware; the hardware chain has been a great supporter of having the buses initially fill up there until we get the school districts their own systems.”
To date, CHS has helped seven school districts in South Dakota and Minnesota convert more than 20 buses from diesel to propane since 2017. Each propane-fueled school bus uses around 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of propane per year, depending on the length of their route.
“CHS Brandon is the right partner in these conversions because we are community- owned and invested in being a lifelong partner in autogas,” adds Kracke. “We also have the knowledge and expertise to provide schools with propane.