Thomas Built Buses use Saf-T-Net construction to create a cage-like design for increased passenger protection.  -  Photo: Wes Platt

Thomas Built Buses use Saf-T-Net construction to create a cage-like design for increased passenger protection.

Photo: Wes Platt

Inside or outside the school bus, the safety of the children each vehicle carries remains a primary consideration for companies that build them.

From fundamental roof bow construction to high-tech sensor equipment, the modern school bus has evolved as one of the most intensely regulated vehicles on the road each and every day.

Ken Whisnant, engineering manager for Thomas Built Buses, said safety remains a major focus for the company: “For a long time, it was seat belts and different seat types. The focus recently has been around-the-bus safety features. We recognize it’s important not only getting kids safely to and from school, but also safe from oncoming traffic.”

That focus is also found at IC Bus. Said Katherine Stok, the company’s segment marketing director: “Safety is included in all of our investments for R&D and is at the heart of all we do at IC Bus.” She noted that any and all technologies that protect children in the danger zone around the bus are prioritized.

Michael Perez, GreenPower Motor Company’s vice president for school buses, contracts, and grants, said that the company spends an equal amount of resources improving safety inside and outside the bus.

“For instance, GreenPower has made several features standard in its school bus builds that are usually options,” he said.

Bryce Pfister, vice president and general manager for Collins Bus, said his company’s also “dedicated to designing and manufacturing the safest bus on the market to protect the lives of its precious cargo.” 

In this article, School Bus Fleet explores some of the standard and premium features available to keep children safe, including:

  • Sturdy frames and roofs.
  • Reliable flooring.
  • Impact-absorbing rub rails.
  • Safety alarms.
  • And more!

Blue Bird

  • Blue Bird’s All American boasts the largest bumpers in the school bus industry at 15 inches tall.
  • Rain visor built into roof to enhance visibility in all conditions.
  • Rub rails mounted above floor level, providing additional structural rigidity and passenger protection.
  • The Vision bus offers forward visibility and mirror systems that improve driver awareness and increase child safety around the bus.
  • Heavy 14-gauge floor panels cover full width of bus and are reinforced with “U” channel crossmembers every nine inches.
  • Electronic stability control (ESC) to help prevent loss of steering control in inclement road conditions.
  • Back-up/rear view camera that provides the driver with a display to assist with backing the bus.

Collins Bus

The Collins Bus Type A vehicle has full-length interlocking cross members and floor beams that provide roll-over and side-impact protection.  -  Photo: Collins Bus

The Collins Bus Type A vehicle has full-length interlocking cross members and floor beams that provide roll-over and side-impact protection.

Photo: Collins Bus

  • One-piece tubular roof bow construction made of HSLA (high-strength low-alloy) steel.
  • Full length interlocking longitudinal cross members and floor beams creating a roll cage structure that offers roll-over and side impact protection.
  • Interlocking floor beams that hook to one another to create a cage that delivers extra strength and protection.
  • View-out window that reduces blind spots and enhances visibility.
  • One-piece marine grade plywood (not separate panels) reduces splintering under duress.
  • Egress window zones throughout the bus maximizes available emergency exit locations.
  • Collins Clean and Shield (by Permasafe) application to each bus which eliminates most germs, bacteria, viruses an other harmful microorganisms on surfaces and fabric.
  • Back-up camera system standard on all buses under 10,000 GVWR.

GreenPower Motor Company

BEAST Type D

  • Seat belts for passengers.
  • Interior reminder safety alarms.
  • Non-slip flooring.
  • Monocoque Constellium all-aluminum chassis on the BEAST Type D school bus.
  • Higher floors than typical school buses, elevating student passengers above the usual accident impact zone.

IC Bus

The IC Bus CE Series features steering wheel controls that allow the driver to keep better control during passenger loading and unloading.  -  Photo: IC Bus

The IC Bus CE Series features steering wheel controls that allow the driver to keep better control during passenger loading and unloading.

Photo: IC Bus

CE Series

  • Bendix ESP Full Stability System (electronic stability control).
  • Active emergency braking – Bendix Wingman Advanced Collision Mitigation System (air brake buses, internal-combustion engine buses only).
  • Entrance steps remain their full width with no taper from the bottom to top.
  • Steering wheel controls – allows the driver to keep better control during both loading and unloading of passengers.
  • Child detection/post-trip monitor system.
  • Threaded-bow body construction with continuous runners connecting all roof bows.
  • Upgradable SafeGuard BTI Seating – protects for combination of belted and unbelted occupants; includes SmartFrame technology to enhance compartmentalization.

CE Series Electric
 

  • High-voltage disconnect switch.
  • Batteries fully enclosed between frame rails.
  • Noise emitter.
  • Air disc brakes.

Thomas Built Buses

Minotour

  • Safety cage body construction.
  • Two internal roof crash rails for rollover protection.
  • Daytime running lights.
  • Four-wheel anti-lock brakes.

Saf-T-Liner C2

  • Saf-T-Net construction with extended roof bows and a rafter system that create a cage-like design. Roof bows go three inches below the floor line for enhanced durability in a crash.
  • Side skirt reinforcement.
  • Bonded windshield and stationary glass.
  • PV360 360-degree camera.
  • Mobileye N.V. warning system to prevent forward collision, pedestrian collision, and lane departure.

Saf-T-Liner HDX

  • LED lighting.
  • Up to 50-degree wheel cut.
  • Loading zone visibility.
  • Exterior mirror cluster with flat and convex rear view mirrors and front crossover mirrors.
  • Optional backup camera.

Looking ahead, Whisnant at Thomas Built expects safety technology aboard school buses to keep evolving based on advancements in autonomous vehicles and advanced cameras and sensor detection.

“There’s a ripple down from a lot of sensors in technology in the passenger car that can benefit the school bus industry,” he says. “We’ll keep seeing how our features perform, get feedback, and improve and refine our designs.”

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