HIGH POINT, N.C. — Thomas Built Buses has given its front-engine, transit-style bus an array of upgrades aimed at enhancing its appeal to value-conscious customers seeking greater seating capacity for dense routes.
The Saf-T-Liner EFX, previously called the EF, was renamed to reflect the extra features, storage and access included in the redesigned vehicle.
Kelley Platt, president and CEO of Thomas Built, told SBF in an interview that the new EFX is important for the company’s “culture of continuous improvement.”
“Despite the current restraints in the marketplace, we continue to provide customers with things that are not only new, but meet their concerns,” Platt said. “We’re going out and figuring out what they want.”
To that end, Thomas Built began the redesign process by conducting focus groups.
“We asked our customers how we could make a good bus even better,” said Jed Routh, product planning manager. “With the new EFX, you’ll see a sleek contemporary exterior like the rest of our buses, and a lot of features customers have been seeking.”
The new EFX holds up to 90 passengers, like its predecessor, and offers many of the same options. The redesigned exterior makes it easier and more convenient to access electrical components. A new engine cover allows belts and fluid levels to be checked easily — without removing the cover and without tools.
Thomas Built increased cockpit storage to make the EFX more comfortable and convenient for drivers.
The bus is powered by a Cummins ISB diesel engine with selective catalytic reduction technology. The EFX is backed by Thomas Built’s customer support, service and parts availability.
The EFX chassis and body are produced on Thomas Built’s Zero-Waste-to-Landfill production lines. Company officials said that the commonality of parts used in the EFX and HDX buses helps to maximize efficiency and cut waste.
“Anything you can do with common parts makes you more efficient from a manufacturing perspective,” Platt said.
Routh added that the commonality is also a benefit to customers who have both buses in their fleet, and it helped the company redesign the EFX more quickly.
“We’ve actually been at this redesign for less than a year,” Platt said. “One of the constraints was to do it quickly and very cost effectively. We understand the environment that districts and contractors are working in.”
Despite the fast turnaround on the project, Routh stressed that Thomas Built was “not shortcutting anything” and that the bus is getting full durability testing.
The EFX will be unveiled in October at the National Association for Pupil Transportation trade show in Cincinnati.
It will be available for order in the fourth quarter of this year and is scheduled to go into production in the first quarter of 2012.