A new lease-purchase initiative offered by Thomas Built Buses will enable the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District to “green” more of its fleet while moving more greenbacks into the classroom. The plan is to transition toward school buses and maintenance trucks powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), as well as all-electric delivery trucks.
District officials will funnel the fuel and maintenance cost savings into a comprehensive, district-wide technology upgrade. Current estimates show the district saving nearly 70 percent in fuel costs when comparing diesel fuel to CNG. Long-term fuel and maintenance savings are estimated at about $11 million, with outside resources for the initiative totaling roughly $3.5 million.
"We are making changes within our district that will benefit students for years and years," said Dr. David McGehee, R-7 superintendent (pictured above). "With the conversion to environmentally friendly school buses and district vehicles, we are able to use the savings generated in this area to purchase much-needed technology infrastructure and equipment that will provide students with access to increased technological resources."
The technology portion of the project includes approximately $5 million in purchases during the first year.
The switch to alternative fuels began this summer, with 106 CNG-powered buses scheduled for delivery during the 2013-2014 school year, and more to arrive as older buses require replacement. Before the conversion began, the overall age of the bus fleet exceeded 10 years.
In addition, the initiative includes construction of a CNG filling station for the Transportation Department that will also serve the local community and Kansas City metropolitan area. Slated to open this fall, the filling station will provide additional revenue for the school district because it will receive a royalty on retail CNG sales.
In the next few years, Lee’s Summit R-7 will convert 149 buses, a refrigerator truck used for food delivery and 46 vehicles used by Facilities Services maintenance and custodial employees.
"Through this transition, we will be operating newer, quieter and cleaner school buses while saving millions of dollars through the conversion," said Dr. McGehee. "We will also be eliminating close to 150 metric tons of emissions and reducing our dependency on foreign oil products. It is truly a win-win situation for our schools."
The district’s conversion to CNG vehicles will be the largest in the country, according to Thomas Built. The transition is also made possible through partnerships with Clean Energy and Midwest Bus Sales, a Thomas Built Buses dealer.