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August 01, 2007  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Flooring Takes Steps in the Right Direction

Often overlooked during the specification process, flooring is a key consideration. Advances have been made in traction, durability and maintainability.

by Kristen Minogue, Editorial Assistant


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School bus flooring and steps take a beating every day, so they need to be rugged and easy to clean while providing secure footing for passengers and drivers.

Flooring is easy to forget about, and, indeed, drivers shouldn’t need to be thinking about whether their floor is secure during runs. But this key bus feature shouldn’t be overlooked during the specification process. The flooring and step tread system that school bus operations select can go a long way in preventing injuries.

Safety in the stairwell
Slips and falls on the stairwell can be embarrassing — and hazardous — for students as well as the driver. To minimize the chances of such a mishap, flooring manufacturers offer an array of step tread enhancements.

RCA Rubber’s Apex step tread has a cone-shaped, nubbed texture, providing better traction for all types of footwear. The Talon Tread comes with a 2.5- or 3.5-inch abrasive strip along the nose for safer boarding and dismounting. All of the treads feature high-contrast white or yellow nosing, and all except the Apex come fully ribbed to decrease sliding.

Koroseal designed its Pebble Tread and Ribbed Tread with the same philosophy in mind. Step nosings are bonded to the tread with a lightweight, non-metallic, non-corrosive backing to improve passenger safety.

Staying afoot in the aisle
Safety concerns don’t end once the passengers board the bus. The aisle must also be able to handle the traffic.

Koroseal’s Granite Textured matting has a rough, nubbed surface that enhances traction. The Eagle Flec Stardust design uses randomly spaced metallic flakes for the same purpose.

RCA Rubber uses a double-groove rib design on its floors. In addition to increasing traction, the double grooves make it easier for water to drain, preventing puddles from forming in the aisles.

Meanwhile, Altro Transflor follows a completely different strategy. Instead of altering the texture of the surface, it blends a colored quartz aggregate into the material. The silicon carbide and aluminum oxide molecules provide additional grip to the passengers’ shoes.

Although Altro focuses on safety flooring for public transit systems, many of its products are available for the school bus market as well. Altro spokesperson Dan Lee says his company is developing a new product specifically for school buses.

Staying power is important
Heavy foot traffic poses the biggest threat to a floor’s durability. The standard rib designs offered by RCA Rubber and Koroseal provide protection against the daily grind. Altro’s products come in three thicknesses — 1.8, 2.2 and 2.7 mm — to deal with light, moderate or heavy traffic.

For the more skeptically minded, warranties can offer plenty of flex time to test the products. Lee says Altro Transflor’s warranties can go as long as 15 years.

RCA Rubber’s Don Bullock says its 1/8-inch smooth and 3/16-inch ribbed floors have 12-year warranties, although they frequently last the lifetime of the vehicle.

RCA Rubber prides itself on the uniform composition of its materials. Unlike some floors, which have a thin surface covering that can easily chip or rub off, RCA Rubber floors are homogenous throughout their entire thickness. According to Bullock, this keeps the floor looking attractive even after years of wear and tear.

With regard to the material itself, Bullock still believes rubber has the upper hand over vinyl, especially in terms of dimensional stability. “Vinyl has a tendency to expand and contract with temperature variances, creating an issue with seam integrity,” he says.

Instead of choosing a side in the debate, Jack Woodyard of Koroseal says his company found the best of both worlds. Its products, referred to as elastomers, are made from proprietary compounds that combine features of vinyl and rubber, according to Woodyard.

Now, the dirty work
After a floor has passed all the tests for slip resistance and durability, one critical factor remains: clean-up. Staff must be prepared to deal with everything from spilled soda stains to blue ballpoint pen marks. A low-maintenance floor saves time, money and elbow grease.

Altro products come with a built-in bacteriostat to prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms. “You can’t always get everything off the floor, so it creates kind of a hygienic surface,” says Lee. And because the bacteriostat is evenly distributed throughout the entire product, it never wears off. As Lee describes it, “It’s part of the compound.”

Koroseal recommends Crystal Simple Green, the clear industrial version of Simple Green, to clean its products. “Everybody sells Simple Green,” says Woodyard. “It’s one of the original green cleaners.” It can be used full strength or diluted, depending on the intensity of the stain.

Basic maintenance for RCA Rubber products requires only non-ionic detergent, bleach and a mop. On its Website, RCA has a list of suggestions for trickier stains. Formula 409 All Purpose Cleaner or De-Solv-It will take care of most of them, although rare occasions may call for hair spray or white toothpaste.

 


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