Crosby-Ironton Transportation is the sole transportation contractor for two school districts in rural Minnesota: Crosslake Community Schools and Crosby-Ironton School District. The region, which has a population of 10,600, is known for its beauty and outdoor adventures, including crystal-clear lakes, hiking and biking.
As the company explored ways to manage daily operations in extreme weather, keep its budget in check and protect the surrounding landscape, propane autogas emerged as the most fitting fuel.
“Our community and students have benefited greatly from our propane buses because they have no cold-start issues, so we can be confident that kids can continue attending school even when the weather turns to negative 40 degrees,” Josh Schiffler, owner of Crosby-Ironton Transportation, said.
In 2013, Schiffler purchased a 2011 Micro Bird Type A bus — the third Micro Bird propane bus ever built. Ten years later, that same bus is operating daily with more than 248,000 miles on it. Since then, Schiffler has added 11 Type C Blue Bird Vision propane buses to the fleet.
Crosby-Ironton Transportation’s buses are used extensively, including for daily routes, special needs and extracurricular activities. In fact, Schiffler says he uses all of the company’s propane school buses for long-distance travel, including field trips across the state and even up to Canada.
With all that travel, Schiffler is grateful for the dramatic fuel savings on his propane buses. Crosby-Ironton Transportation pays $1.67 per gallon for propane and over $5 for diesel, resulting in a 67% savings for its propane-powered buses.
Between the overall savings on fuel and maintenance costs, the reliability of the engine and the health benefits, Schiffler says about adopting propane school bus technology: “It’s common sense. It just works.”
Schiffler also serves as Crosby-Ironton Transportation’s only technician; he performs all of the preventative maintenance on each vehicle. The propane buses, which Schiffler calls “virtually maintenance free,” are equipped with ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas technology.
To highlight how economical and easy to maintain the propane school buses have been, Schiffler listed on one hand the work that’s been needed over the course of the Micro Bird’s lifetime to date. In 10 years, the quarter-million-mile propane bus still has the original transmission and has only required one fuel pump, one radiator, a headlight replacement, spark plugs and tank recoating.
Schiffler noted that the propane buses have no cold start issues and can reliably get students to and from school. The buses don’t require extra steps or costly equipment to keep the fuel operating when temperatures drop below freezing — which is helpful from a budgeting and staffing perspective.
Diesel buses, on the other hand, have several additional requirements to operate in cold weather, including being plugged in overnight, installing a block heater in the coolant system, and needing fuel additives. The risk of a complete operational shutdown is much higher with diesel buses.
Between the superior long-term serviceability and substantial fuel and maintenance savings, Schiffler is certain that propane autogas makes the most sense.
“We’ll continue to purchase propane school buses going forward,” he said.
Here’s to creating a greener future for our children.