With the recently unveiled Micro Bird T-Series, Blue Bird has become the first manufacturer to build a production Type A school bus on the new Ford Transit cutaway chassis.

Officials said that the company chose the Transit platform for its fuel economy, payload capabilities and product breadth.

“Transit’s lower chassis weight and better payload distribution allow us to provide our customers with increased passenger capacities, while at the same time reducing fuel consumption,” said Steve Girardin, president and CEO of Micro Bird Inc. “Transit also offers serious safety improvements through better driver ergonomics and visibility of the student loading zone.”

The T-Series offers a choice of two wheelbases, with capacities ranging from nine to 25 passengers and as much as 10,360 lbs. It is available in school bus, multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), multi-function school activity bus (MFSAB) and commercial configurations. Production is underway, with buses already on dealer lots.

Ford’s Transit is available in van, wagon, cutaway and chassis cab models, with a total of 47 configurations available from the factory.

Micro Bird CEO Steve Girardin says that the Transit platform offers improved visibility of the student loading zone.

Micro Bird CEO Steve Girardin says that the Transit platform offers improved visibility of the student loading zone.

“School bus builders have relied on the Ford E-Series family for decades, and we are continuing to offer all of those popular models. The Transit cutaway is a great addition to the Ford school bus chassis lineup,” said Dennis Bearden, Ford’s RV and pool account manager for fleets. “Transit gives manufacturers a flexible and rugged base for building smaller, more-efficient Type A school buses and multi-function school activity buses.”

The Transit cutaway allows school bus builders to choose from three wheelbases, a gasoline or diesel engine, and single or dual wheels. It can be equipped with the school bus body builder prep package or the MFSAB body builder prep package. The prep packages include banded tinted front door glass, dual heavy-duty batteries, a heavy-duty alternator, front license plate bracket, auxiliary fuse panel, auxiliary heater/air-conditioning prep package, right-hand door delete and school bus yellow paint.

There are three Ford engines to choose from: 3.2L I-5 Power Stroke diesel, 3.7L Ti-VCT V6, or 3.5L EcoBoost V6. The 3.7L V6 engine is available with a compressed natural gas (CNG)/propane gaseous engine prep package to enable conversion to CNG or propane. The 3.2L turbo diesel engine is B20-capable, so it can run on a mix of 80% diesel and 20% biodiesel fuel. A six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift tow/haul mode is standard.

Transit also features a unibody design and a much lighter GVW than the Ford E-350 and E-450 cutaway chassis, which Ford officials said contributes to bus builders’ ability to provide higher payloads and improved fuel economy in a Type A bus. Transit also provides low entry for riders and enhanced visibility for drivers, according to Ford.

In addition to Micro Bird, Ford works with Collins Bus Corp., Thomas Built Buses and Starcraft Bus.

Ford Transit is made at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri.

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