Fort Valley-based Blue Bird Corp. has received an order for 432 propane-powered school buses -- the largest order of its type in the industrys history.
In February, Blue Bird and Michigan-based Roush CleanTech launched the current Type C Blue Bird Vision propane-powered buses, said Jeff Merten, executive director of global marketing with Blue Bird.
Its something Blue Bird has an exclusive on for Type C buses (which are buses that can hold up to 77 passengers), Merten said. We are currently the only bus company that offers propane buses in that class. So, (the large order) is great for the state of Georgia. It is great for Blue Bird. ... We absolutely celebrated.
The order was placed by Student Transportation Inc., a New Jersey-based school bus provider, for the Omaha and Millard Public schools in Nebraska. It will be the nations largest propane-powered school bus fleet, according to a news release from Student Transportation.
Blue Bird has about 1,500 employees at the Fort Valley plant, and since the company had anticipated some growth this year, the company wont need to hire additional workers to fill this order, Merten said.
We have great workers who are cranking those buses out for us, he said. As we get incremental orders, if they are over and above the plan, we have the ability to work overtime. ... The average tenure of our employees is about 15 years, so there have been some real loyal people who have been building buses for a long time.
Also, as part of its general operating plan, Blue Bird hires seasonal workers, and they could be called on to help fill orders.
It will take the company about three months to build the 432 buses, then they will be driven to Nebraska, he said.
Hall County was the first county in Georgia to order the propane-powered school buses earlier this year.
The Hall County school district bought 20 Blue Bird Vision school buses to reduce the communitys carbon footprint and lower the countys costs for school bus fuel and maintenance, according to a release.
Other orders have come from Appling County in Georgia and several other locations across the country, Merten said.
We are seeing it all over, he said. We are helping create jobs in the U.S. We are putting Americans to work who are harvesting this propane gas.
Out of the three main school bus manufacturers -- Blue Bird, Thomas Bus and IC Corp. -- Blue Bird has more than double the number of alternative fuel buses on the road than all our competitors combined, Merten said. It is a very big deal for us. We invested a lot in launching this propane product line.
There are huge advantages to propane buses, he said. Not only is 90 percent of Americas propane domestically sourced, which reduces our dependence on foreign oil, propane costs about half of what diesel fuel costs.
A propane bus is very, very quiet, and that is nice from a safety factor, he said. Drivers can pay more attention to the students.
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-423.