ONTARIO, Calif. — School transportation officials from around Southern California gathered here on Friday to check out the latest offerings from Blue Bird, Micro Bird, and their component suppliers.
The event was one of seven Product Immersion Tour (PIT) stops that Blue Bird has scheduled in various states this year. The OEM launched the concept last year with stops in Dallas, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee.
In Ontario, attendees climbed aboard Blue Bird and Micro Bird buses that are powered by a range of fuel types — diesel, gasoline, propane, and compressed natural gas (CNG) — with different options for engines, transmissions, and suspensions.
David Bercik, executive director of marketing and product planning for Blue Bird, said that last year’s PIT stops proved to be popular for customers who wanted to get a firsthand look at new bus options. Accordingly, Blue Bird decided to expand the tour in 2017.
Along with more stops, the expansion includes an increase in the number of component suppliers. In Ontario, 18 suppliers showcased such products as tires, stop arms, lights, transmissions, and engines.
The event was also hosted by Blue Bird’s dealer in California, A-Z Bus Sales. John Landherr, president and CEO of the dealership, said that CNG has long been the dominant alternative fuel in the Southern California school bus market, but propane sales are now on the increase in both Southern and Northern California.
A-Z is also delivering some orders of Blue Bird’s new gasoline Type C bus for a couple of school districts in Southern California.
Landherr noted that sales of Type D buses have historically been higher than those of Type C buses in California, but he has seen a recent shift toward Type Cs. That could bode well for Blue Bird’s new Type C CNG bus, particularly in the Southern California market.
Mark Toti, transportation manager for Bellflower Unified School District (USD), said that his fleet is now made up almost entirely of CNG models, and the operation has its own CNG fueling infrastructure. However, Bellflower USD, which is located in Los Angeles County next to Long Beach, is also hoping to get a grant that would cover the cost of a new electric school bus.