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4 Benefits of Diesel for School Buses


Diesel has received a bad reputation as of late. There's a lot of talk about "alternative fuels" - which can be great for some districts - yet at the same time, gasoline, propane and compressed natural gas are portrayed as cleaner, more efficient and more sustainable solutions than diesel. While other fuel types are clean-burning, the stance that they are significantly cleaner, and well, better than diesel is no longer true. Better for some districts, yes. But better overall? Not so fast. Diesel today isn't what it was 10 or 15 years ago, and in fact, it's still the best long-term solution for most districts today. Here's why:


Diesel emissions at the tailpipe are more than ninety percent cleaner than they were ten years ago and just as clean, if not cleaner, than other fuel types. See for yourself.

 Consider the popular Saf-T-Liner® C2 for example. As you can see in the chart below, across the board Thomas Built's diesel engine, the Cummins ISB 6.7L, is certified well below the EPA rating requirements for particulates, NoX and CO grams per brake horsepower. Even more surprising to some, diesel comes in well below propane emission ratings and performs better than CNG for CO grams per brake horsepower. Now that's something to think about. 


Some fuel options, such as gasoline, are hitting the market with an unprecedented low acquisition cost. For low-bid districts, these fuel types may seem appealing. However, when you crunch the numbers, even with a slightly higher acquisition cost, diesel provides a lower total cost of ownership.

Of course the numbers vary based on usage, mileage, terrain, and other factors, but with its overall low cost, efficiency, engine durability and resale value, diesel has a total cost of ownership lower than propane, gasoline and compressed natural gas.

Plus, with diesel, you don't have to deal with logistical issues and fueling upgrades that come with switching to another fuel. That's even more money in the bank. 


It's a fact: diesel is and will continue to be the industry standard. Ninety-three percent of today's school buses run on diesel power. Why? Diesel engines are built for the medium- and heavy-duty/commercial grade market, so they are proven, reliable and durable, lasting significantly longer than propane and gasoline counterparts. Diesel engines will last 15-20 years, while other engine platforms need to be replaced multiple times during the normal lifecycle of a school bus. Multiply that out based on the number of buses in your fleet, and that can be a whole lot of engine replacements.


Lastly, let's state the obvious that diesel comes with the burden of cumbersome aftertreatment systems. But today, diesel is innovative. While other manufacturers have been focusing on "alternative fuels" that will require additional fueling infrastructure, maintenance requirements and training, Thomas Built Buses, our parent company Daimler Trucks North America (the largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in the world), and Detroit have been focusing on the diesel engine to make it even more efficient and much easier to maintain without the aftertreatment system headaches. In 2018 the new Detroit™ DD5™ and DD8™ engines will debut. These engines will represent the best in fuel efficiency, durability, reliability, serviceability and technology/telematics in the industry. Now that's something to be excited about.

While we will continue to work with our customers to determine which fuel type is specifically best for them, we also are not turning our back on diesel. Thomas Built Buses will continue to invest in technologies and innovative solutions that benefit our customers and the communities they serve, and we will continue to make diesel an even better solution for our customers now and into the future.