As Micro Bird celebrates 50 years of bringing to the market a diverse and innovative product line of vehicles designed for safely transporting small numbers of students, it credits its employees and customers for helping it achieve its success.
From transforming the Type A bus building process to unveiling its T-Series, Micro Bird has brought critical innovations to school transportation vehicles over the last half century.
“We are very small bus-minded,” said Steve Girardin, Micro Bird’s president and CEO. “We have always focused on the under 36-passengers [market].”
In July 1966, the Girardin family started what is known today as Micro Bird, with van conversions and upfits to meet demand in school transportation for smaller vehicles.
The company began as a department of A. Girardin Inc.’s school bus dealership in Quebec. Over the years, the family offered more buses for the special-needs and commercial transportation markets, including through two joint ventures with Blue Bird Corp., in 1992 and in 2009.
Micro Bird has helped to transform the industry by introducing many small bus innovations that offer increased safety and durability compared to van bodies.
In the late 1970s, Girardin Mini Bus added a new school bus-compliant body structure to enhance safety for Type A school buses, similar to the design of a Type C school bus.
Previously, Type A buses had been van conversions; van interiors would be stripped out and seats and padding would be added.
“The introduction of the cutaway changed the industry. You just built your body and then added it onto the cutaway, which is what people know today as the Type A school bus,” Girardin said.
“The important thing at the time was to provide safety inside the smaller school vehicle,” he added.
The company also added triangle-shaped warning lights, which identified the buses as school vehicles.
The Girardin family had been very focused on single rear wheel applications until the late 1970s, when the first Blue Bird Micro Bird was designed for the dual rear wheel market.
“Over time as Blue Bird changed the product, Girardin began introducing dual wheel, and in the mid-1990s, taking over Blue Bird’s production of both the single and dual wheel,” he explained.
Then, in the late 1990s, the company expanded the types of chassis available for the Micro Bird, diversifying the bus to apply to the multifunction school activity bus and other commercial markets.
The manufacturer’s dual rear wheel (DRW) G5, introduced in 2006, a new generation of the MB-IV, was also a significant milestone for Micro Bird, with many in the industry using it as a benchmark, Girardin said.
Micro Bird’s latest innovation, introduced in 2014, is the T-Series. Girardin said that Micro Bird brought the new Ford Transit platform into the market due to its fuel economy. Additionally, the oval body, designed with a wider interior width at-hip, allows for a lighter vehicle that provides a more comfortable ride.
To highlight its 50th anniversary, Micro Bird created a special logo and is undergoing a major plant overhaul to continue to meet growing demand. The company plans to celebrate with its employees and customers throughout the year.
“Our customers and employees took us through those first 50 years, and we are prepared for the next 50 years with them,” Girardin said.