More new Type A school buses will be hitting the road this year, including Micro Bird’s electric model.
That’s the forecast from Micro Bird President Steve Girardin, who says the market could see an increase of up to 7% in 2018.
Girardin also discusses propane buses, funding from the Volkswagen (VW) diesel emission settlements, and driver-assistive technologies in this interview with School Bus Fleet.
SBF: Are there any new developments at Micro Bird that you’d like to discuss?
STEVE GIRARDIN: Micro Bird continues to evolve and establish itself as a clear market leader in the Type A market segment. The imminent production of the Micro Bird G5 Electric will ensure we continue to lead the market with innovations, offering the largest breadth of products in the Type A market. We pride ourselves on delivering the best quality products with the lowest total cost of ownership. Ultimately, our primary goal is to deliver the best experience.
How is the Type A school bus market looking for 2018?
The market continues to be healthy and evolve as expected. Notwithstanding another shortage of chassis, we estimate the market could see up to 7% growth in 2018.
For Type A school buses in general, are you seeing any trends?
Governments, school districts, and operators are more environmentally conscious and looking for solutions to reduce their environmental footprint. We are definitely seeing a growing interest for alternative-fuel and electric vehicles from a variety of regions.
We are also seeing customers becoming more aware of the difference between price and cost. Customers are realizing that buying a school bus goes well beyond the actual acquisition. They are actually committing to a 10 to 15 year relationship, emphasizing the importance of doing business with well-established manufacturers, dealers, and suppliers.
When will the electric Micro Bird school bus be available, and what are your expectations for it?
The Micro Bird G5 Electric is undergoing a variety of tests for certification. We expect to open the order bank very shortly and deliver a number of units by the end of September 2018. As a brand, Blue Bird will have the largest offering of electric vehicles in the school bus market.
How are sales of Micro Bird’s propane school bus?
Sales of the Micro Bird propane have been stable, but we expect demand to grow over the next few years, due to its economic and environmental sustainability. Propane will also get a boost with the deployment of VW mitigation funds. With the support of our partners, Ford and Roush, we currently offer the only certified propane solution for Type A. With over 800 school districts and operators having adopted Blue Bird’s Type C propane in both rural and city applications, the integration of the Micro Bird propane becomes natural. It’s important to mention that the Blue Bird propane solution is the same throughout the Type A and C product lines, simplifying even the maintenance and training. Propane is currently the most financially viable green solution.
It’s been a little over three years since Micro Bird unveiled the T-Series. What kind of feedback have you heard from the school districts and contractors that have been running the T-Series in their fleets?
Vehicles are performing as promised and feedback continues to be positive with the Micro Bird T-Series, a definite success story. The driver ergonomics, maintenance access, and low cost of operation continue to delight at all levels. Its ability to deliver over 20% fuel savings over comparable platforms also makes it a great alternative for environmentally conscious operators.
What are some emerging technologies that you expect to have a significant impact on school transportation in the near future?
Most of the technologies that will impact our industry over the next five to 10 years are already known and exist. The majority will revolve around powertrain technologies and efficiency and driving aids to improve safety. As the market leader in Type A innovations, Micro Bird already offers many of these technologies to those who are ready.