Trade show highlights
The two-day trade show featured more than 150 exhibitors, many of whom displayed their new offerings or, in a few cases, concept products.
One of the most talked-about concept products was IC Corporation’s low-floor school bus. The bus, a derivative of the BE 200 small bus, features a highly accessible door, kneeling suspension and curbside ramp, allowing students who use wheelchairs to roll aboard the bus rather than be raised into the vehicle using a wheelchair lift.
“Whether the ramp is engaged or students use the one-step entry, the low-floor design provides students with a much easier way to ride to and from school,” said Michael Cancelliere, vice president and general manager of IC Corporation. “Students with wheelchairs or other mobility aid devices can all enter the bus through the same easy-access door.”
The use of a wheelchair-accessible, ramp-enabled service door would also speed up the boarding and exiting process.
Cancelliere said no decision has been made on the future of the vehicle. “With feedback from attendees at the NAPT show, we will further evaluate if there is enough interest in this concept bus to begin production,” he said.
Meanwhile, Blue Bird Corp. unveiled its propane-powered Vision school bus. Company officials said that the vehicle is intended to provide maximum performance and economic flexibility in meeting the 2007 EPA engine emission requirements. The offering is also part of a wider strategy focusing on alternative fuels.
Blue Bird selected CleanFUEL USA’s certified Liquid Propane Injection System (LPI) to power the bus. The LPI system replaces the gasoline injectors in the GM 8.1L Vortec engine with propane injectors, delivering propane to the cylinders in liquid form. Company officials said that the process results in more complete combustion, lower emissions and improved fuel economy and performance.
Elsewhere on the trade show floor, Thomas Built Buses and Detroit Diesel Corp. dissected an MBE 900 engine that had logged 1.6 million miles and was still performing essentially as well as it had when new, in terms of horsepower, boost pressure and fuel consumption. Attendees were shown the still-superb condition of the engine’s various parts.
Thomas Built also announced that it now offers a universal connector for global positioning systems (GPS) with telematics technology, allowing customers to select the hardware/software provider of their choice. The universal connector can be ordered as a factory option on all Thomas Built Type A, C and D buses.
Start planning now
The 2007 NAPT Conference and Trade Show will be held Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 in Grand Rapids, Mich. For more info, call (800) 989-NAPT or visit www.napt.org.
ASBC Launched at NAPT Show
A three-year public relations campaign designed to raise awareness about the merits of pupil transportation among parents, school districts and lawmakers was introduced at the NAPT conference in Kansas City, Mo.
The new organization is called the American School Bus Council (ASBC) and was formed by the three major industry associations — the NAPT, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services and the National School Transportation Association — and the three major large-bus manufacturers — Blue Bird Corp., IC Corporation and Thomas Built Buses.
Pete Japikse, state pupil transportation director in Ohio, and Donald Tudor, South Carolina’s state pupil transportation director, are co-directors of the ASBC.
Japikse said the program has three goals: to increase awareness among parents of the safety and efficiency of school bus transportation, to increase ridership and to lobby for federal funding of pupil transportation. “We need to sell our story,” he said, adding that local school bus operators can help the cause by talking with parents. “We will give you the words and the message,” he said.
Tudor said parents have “mixed feelings” about school bus transportation, based on the results of focus group interviews. On one hand, they cite the convenience and social development opportunities of the school bus; on the other, they generally don’t trust the drivers. “Most don’t even know the driver’s name,” he said. Overall, he said, the positive associations can be leveraged by the ASBC.
“The ASBC is the last, best chance for school bus transportation,” added Ken Hedgecock, vice president of sales and marketing at Thomas Built Buses. “If we don’t take our stories to the moms and dads of this country, our industry faces a significant threat to what it is today.”
The public relations firm of Burson-Marsteller is providing strategic planning and implementation of the campaign. Burson-Marsteller can be contacted at [email protected]. For more information, visit the ASBC Website, www.americanschoolbuscouncil.org.