Management

Like Sales Numbers, School Bus Options Are on the Rise

James Blue
Posted on December 15, 2017
Consider this contrast: SBF's 2018 Fact Book listings include 10 school bus body manufacturers. Ten years ago, only six of those companies were in the market.
Consider this contrast: SBF's 2018 Fact Book listings include 10 school bus body manufacturers. Ten years ago, only six of those companies were in the market.

If you experienced the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) trade show in November — or if you read our coverage of it — you may have come away with the sense that change is afoot in the school bus industry.

The biggest revelation at NAPT was that the three major large school bus manufacturers — Blue Bird, IC Bus, and Thomas Built — all unveiled new electric school buses.

While the extent that these and other electric models will penetrate the market remains to be seen, the fact that the “Big 3” are adding electricity to their powertrain offerings is significant. From a competitive standpoint, it positions them to go head to head with newer players in the market that are focusing on electric school buses. That includes Canadian company Lion Bus, which this year rebranded itself as the Lion Electric Co. (although it is still offering a diesel model as well as its electric eLion).

Speaking of newer players, another shift in the industry is the increasing number of OEMs. This is evidenced in the Bus & Chassis Manufacturers section of our Fact Book. This year, the new entry is Titan Bus, an Ohio-based Type A school bus manufacturer that combines the experience of several industry veterans.

Another relative newcomer is GreenPower Motor Co., located in Canada as well as California, which is one of the aforementioned manufacturers that is focusing on electric buses.

To confirm my point about the growing field of OEMs, consider this contrast: Our 2018 Fact Book listings include 10 school bus body manufacturers. Ten years ago, only six of those companies were in the market (see our 2008 Fact Book if you have a copy). That’s a big increase in competition for an industry that sells around 40,000 school buses a year.

That number brings me to my next point: Another trend in the market is the ongoing rise in sales. As we report on pg. 34, school bus sales in the U.S. and Canada have grown for six years in a row. The 2017 total, 44,389 school buses sold, was up 8.5% from 2016.

The 2017 total also surpassed the projection that we printed in this space a year ago, which was an estimated 42,100 units to be sold in 2017.

This year’s tally of 44,389 school buses is the highest mark for the industry in more than 10 years. The previous peak was in 2006, when pre-buying ahead of EPA engine emissions standards contributed to a lofty sales total of 47,614 school buses.

The growth of the past six years followed five years of falling sales, bottoming out at 29,060 units in 2011 after several years of severe economic recession.

The market has clearly rebounded and, quite remarkably, has even drawn close to the 2006 peak.

Beyond the soaring sales, we’re also seeing a surge of new technology and other innovations being introduced into the school bus market. That was another key takeaway from the NAPT show.

As one example of innovation, Collins exhibited its new Low-Floor bus, which enables students in wheelchairs to bring themselves aboard by way of a ramp.

As for technological developments, parent notification apps, school bus Wi-Fi, and mobile data terminals (e.g., driver tablets) are a few that are making inroads into the market. We’ll be showcasing new technology in our January issue. Stay tuned.

Related Topics: Blue Bird, Collins Bus Corp., electric bus, IC Bus, Lion Electric Co., NAPT, Thomas Built Buses, Titan Bus, Type A/small buses

James Blue General Manager
Comments ( 0 )
More Stories
NAPT Conference and Trade Show scholarship deadlines are almost here. Shown here is Michael Martin, NAPT's executive director, speaking at the 2018 conference in Kansas City, Mo.
News

NAPT Scholarship Deadlines Approaching

The National Association for Pupil Transportation Conference and Trade Show deadline for two related scholarships is Sept. 18. The Sol Englander Innovation in School Transportation Safety Scholarship deadline is Oct. 11.

Isabel Lane of Wisconsin held the hand of a frightened student on his first day of school. A photo of the gesture taken by his mother is widely shared on social media. Photo courtesy Amy Johnson
News

Bus Driver Comforts Student on First Day of School

Isabel Lane of Wisconsin reaches her hand out to a frightened student on his first day of school after he boards the bus. A photo of the gesture taken by his mother is widely shared on social media.

Francine Furby, the director of transportation for Fairfax County Public Schools, says that the district’s discipline-tracking system “fosters a partnership with the schools and strengthens their support of our drivers.” Photo courtesy Fairfax County Public Schools
Article

Virginia District Bolsters Driver Support for Success

Fairfax County Public Schools backs its 1,325 drivers with a discipline-tracking system for better follow-up and puts driver supervisors on the road to assist as needed. Additionally, fleet upkeep is boosted with county-employed technicians.

Glenda Daughtry, who recently retired, had worked as a bus driver and teacher’s aide for Sampson County Schools in Clinton, N.C. Many districts in the state require certain staff members to obtain their CDL and drive buses when needed. Photo courtesy Vicki Westbrook
Article

Helping School Bus Drivers Turn Downtime Into Uptime

Texas and North Carolina transportation departments fill the gap in drivers’ schedules with work opportunities beyond more routes, such as administrative, cleaning, and technical tasks, and tap other staff to ease driver shortage. Meanwhile, an Illinois contractor offers space for socializing and relaxation.

Zum has expanded its children’s ridesharing service to eight cities. Photo courtesy Zum
News

Zum Expands Ride Service to 8 Cities

In addition to Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, the children’s ridesharing company will now provide transportation to schools in Sacramento, Calif.; San Diego; Miami; Phoenix; Dallas; Chicago; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from SBF delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the school bus industry and don't miss a thing!