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Diesel has received a bad reputation as of late. There's a lot of talk about "alternative fuels" – which can be great for some districts – yet at the same time, gasoline, propane and compressed natural gas are portrayed as cleaner, more efficient and more sustainable solutions than diesel. While other fuel types are clean-burning, the stance that they are significantly cleaner, and well, better than diesel is no longer true. Better for some districts, yes. But better overall? Not so fast. Diesel today isn't what it was 10 or 15 years ago, and in fact, it's still the best long-term solution for most districts today.
What does the future of the school bus industry look like? With telematics, the future of pupil transportation lies in connectivity. School buses are becoming more efficient, safer through enhanced driver performance, easier to maintain and just plain "smarter" all of which also decrease the total cost of ownership (TCO).
At this year's National Association for Pupil Transportation Summit and trade show, school bus manufacturers, service providers and associated vendors put their shiniest buses on display and talked about the latest and greatest products and services their companies had to offer. And, as a leader in the school bus industry, we definitely had a few shiny things of our own to show off. In addition, we showcased a variety of services that make owning and operating one of our buses as easy, low cost and, well... as fun as possible. Here's what you missed.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Thomas Built Buses gave the pupil transportation industry its first glimpse of the new Detroit™ DD5™ engine at the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) Summit here on Tuesday.
Back to School Gets Cool with Thomas Built Buses.
Four Ways Thomas Built Buses Helps You Make the Grade.
Students aren't the only ones with butterflies in their stomachs on the first day of school. Fleet owners, drivers and technicians can also come down with a case of new-school-year-nerves as they consider the possibilities that lie ahead.
HIGH POINT, N.C. — Just in time for the back-to-school season, Thomas Built Buses has partnered with YouTube channel Bored Shorts TV to create a "Kid Snippet" video on school bus safety.
Districts switching to alternative fuels are creating a lot of buzz. First there was a tremendous amount of attention to propane engines. And now the focus has shifted to compressed natural gas, especially since we officially have started production on our new Saf-T-Liner® C2 CNG school bus with the Cummins ISB6.7 G engine and Allison 2000 Series transmission (which, by the way, is the first in the industry). But does compressed natural gas deserve all of this attention, and is the switch really worth it?
Thomas Built Buses recently partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter to celebrate its 100th anniversary and build the 100th and 101th house in the High Point area.
We're having a great time celebrating our 100th anniversary this year. This past month we hosted an employee celebration event with 4,500 of our current and retired employees, dealers and their families. And members of the foundingThomas family showed up for our carnival-themed extravaganza.
Test your knowledge of school bus and Thomas Built history with this fun interactive quiz. Do you have what it takes to become a bus history genius?
"Tennessee Williams would not be worth a hill of beans if it were not for Perley A. Thomas."
One hundred years ago, Perley A. Thomas gave Thomas Built Buses its start when he founded the Perley A. Thomas Car Works, a streetcar company, in 1916. Since then, Thomas Built Buses has been a leader in the school bus industry providing innovations, product features and designs that not only make school buses even more durable, safe, smart and efficient, but also make Thomas Built buses beloved by so many.
HIGH POINT, N.C. — With its green vehicle lineup growing, Thomas Built Buses has created a new position: manager of alternative fuels.
Thomas Built Buses will celebrate it's 100th anniversary in 2016, but the celebrations kicked off at the National Association of Pupil Transportation (NAPT) 41st Annual Summit.
Thomas Built Buses is focused on innovation – not just for the sake of innovation, but to build a smarter, safer, more efficient bus. We innovate with purpose. At NAPT, we announced BusWise™ Technologies, a platform of innovations and technologies that will make our Saf-T-Liner® C2 safer, more efficient, and easier to maintain. The announcement at NAPT was just the beginning, so keep an eye out for many more just on the horizon.
Thomas Built Buses will add two years to its Allison transmission coverage, for a total of seven years, in 2016.
Thomas Built Buses Adds SmartTrac™ Electronic Stability Control and Other Innovations to School Buses
Thomas Built Buses has teamed up with Meritor WABCO to offer new factory-installed SmartTrac™ electronic stability control (ESC) on its diesel-fueled Saf-T-Liner® C2 school buses. SmartTrac ESC is a vehicle safety system that intervenes automatically when it senses instability that could lead to a rollover or loss of bus control.
There has been a lot of buzz around different types of fuels in the marketplace. From gasoline to propane and CNG to diesel, making a decision on fuel type can be a difficult one. However, it's important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all model for every district. In fact, choosing the right fuel type is a very individual decision.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has become a minority investor in Zonar Systems, Inc., as part of a long-term strategic partnership designed to help both companies achieve their shared vision of optimal transportation logistics through intelligent connectivity.
Thomas Built Buses has introduced a comprehensive new service program that focuses on getting your buses out of the shop and back out on the road. Known as Platinum Support, this new program ensures that certified dealers will provide fast turn-around on service and repairs, so you can save time and lower your overall service costs.
Winter is the perfect time to think about corrosion protection. In recent years, new de-icing materials have been implemented by many municipalities and states across the country. While they are more effective at keeping the roads safe, they are also harsher than traditional products and can increase corrosion of bus bodies and undercarriages. The chassis, bumpers, stepwell and even the wiring of a bus are at risk.
The results of corrosion can be costly. These days, schools and transportation departments need to keep buses in service for 15, 20 or even 25 years. But when too much corrosion damage occurs, they are forced to retire buses early or spend a lot of money to have the corrosion damage repaired. The good news? It's possible to avoid these unwanted costs by implementing a little more upfront protection.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Thomas Built Buses is developing another alternative-fuel offering for its line of school buses: a compressed natural gas (CNG) Type C.
A company spokesperson said that Thomas Built anticipates being the first to market with a CNG-powered Type C (also known as conventional) school bus.
The Saf-T-Liner C2 CNG is slated to go into production in the first quarter of 2016. It will be CARB-certified and will exceed EPA 2013 emissions requirements, according to the company.
After the initial purchase price of a bus, fuel is the most significant expense over the life of the vehicle. That's why school districts across the country are looking for ways to operate more fuel-efficient fleets. Often they turn to alternative fuels. And lately, there has been a lot of buzz in the media about propane autogas.
Propane is all the rage, and everyone is talking about it. But in reality, propane-fueled vehicles have been around for years. In fact, propane is the world's most popular clean-burning alternative fuel in the transportation industry. It is also a low-cost fuel option with an easy-to-install fueling infrastructure. But if everyone is offering propane, how do you choose?
If propane is the fuel of choice for your fleet, to maximize your cost savings, make sure your propane buses run a fully integrated system.
HIGH POINT, N.C. — Thomas Built Buses is investing $11.8 million to increase capacity and add up to 236 new jobs to its Saf-T-Liner C2 operations. The investment will expand C2 bus production at Thomas Built's headquarters and production facility in High Point by upwards of 25%, company officials said.
The expansion of the company's C2 operations and fabrication parts producing capabilities was supported by about $66,100 in economic incentives granted from Randolph County and the city of Archdale.
This year's theme for NAPT is Driving Innovation. That's something we know a lot about at Thomas Built Buses. In fact, it's been our company theme for decades. We're recognized leaders in new technology and innovative manufacturing techniques. And our partnerships with OEM suppliers raise the bar even higher. Visit our booth at NAPT, and we'll show you the latest and greatest Thomas Built innovations.
Come discover new ways to improve fuel efficiency and overall performance. Let us show the future of fleet management. And ultimately, see firsthand how you can achieve a lower total cost of ownership. After all, what truly drives our innovation is you, our customers.
Here's what you can expect to see at the Thomas Built Buses booth.
Thomas Built Buses Accelerates Investment in its High Point, North Carolina Facility to Meet Growing Saf-T-Liner C2 Demand
Thomas Built Buses today announced the investment of $11,800,000 to add additional capacity and up to 236 new jobs to the company's Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner® C2 operations in High Point, North Carolina.
The investment will expand C2 production at Thomas Built Buses headquarters and production facility in High Point, North Carolina by upwards of 25 percent. The expansion of the company's C2 operations and fabrication parts producing capabilities was supported by approximately $66,100 in economic incentives granted from Randolph County and the City of Archdale.
It's much easier to improve something if you can measure it. So as more fleet managers focus on Total Cost of Ownership(TCO), many have developed methods to more effectively calculate ongoing costs. Like Greg Lammers, the fleet manager for Owatonna Bus Co. in Owatonna, Minnesota. He's implemented precise procedures to measure exact TCO for each vehicle in his 275-vehicle fleet. He did it using a management software called ManagerPlus.
Armed with the software and strategic forward-thinking, Lammers created a system that helps streamline labor, reduce maintenance and inventory costs, minimize human error and ensures that no vehicle maintenance falls through the cracks, which improves overall safety.
What we've learned after 10 years of building the Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner® C2
In 2004, the Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner® C2 changed the school bus industry. And that didn't happen by chance. When designing and building the C2, Thomas Built implemented a simple and effective strategy: do a handful of things better than anyone else. That's right. We knew the things that were most important to school systems: safety, durability, reliability and cost. So those were the areas where we focused our efforts.
We asked important core questions, like "What truly makes a bus safer?" and "How do we build a bus that will last for 20 years?" The answers led us to create a C2 bus with outstanding maneuverability, state-of-the-art driver ergonomics and the most visibility among all Type C buses. Those are vital design elements if you want to enhance bus safety. We also experimented with welds and strong adhesives that ensure long-term construction integrity. And we created a bus that is much easier to service and maintain, to reduce downtime and labor costs. So now, after ten years, we see that our strategy has performed better than expected. As a result, we recently expanded the warranty on the C2, which will save school systems money and will provide even more peace of mind.
HIGH POINT, N.C. — Thomas Built Buses has teamed up with Allison Transmission to offer FuelSense fuel-saving technology as standard equipment on several of its school buses.
FuelSense will come standard on Thomas Built's Saf-T-Liner C2, Saf-T-Liner EFX and Saf-T-Liner HDX school buses produced on or after Oct. 1, 2014.
The standard FuelSense package will include Allison 5th Generation Electronic Controls; EcoCal, which is a defined set of low and "super" low speed shift schedules designed to keep the engine speed at its optimum point; and Dynamic Shift Sensing, which automatically selects between EcoCal or a higher-speed shift schedule, based on the vehicle load and the operating grade, to provide the best fuel economy and performance for the given operating conditions.
There has been a lot of buzz surrounding propane buses, but what is all of the fuss about? Hasn't propane been around for years?
It's true that propane is not a new fuel source, but its popularity in the school bus industry is definitely on the rise. As district budgets are tightened and environmental standards become as much of a public mandate as they are governmental, fleets are switching to alternative-fueled school buses to improve their image and their transportation budgets. Alternative fuels, such as CNG and propane, are "green" fuels that are less impactful on the environment and are cheaper, more efficient fuel sources.
But why propane?
There are many advantages to propane-fueled school buses, starting with the fact that propane is simply the world's most popular clean-burning alternative fuel. Propane has been used for many things, from grilling steaks to heating homes, so most people are at least somewhat familiar with propane.
To celebrate riding the school bus back to school, Thomas Built Buses is once again hosting its annual Back to School Photo Contest. The photo contest invites parents to submit a photo of their child that best represents the Back to School season.
The top five winners will each receive a $2,000 donation for their child's school.
To enter, parents and students aged 18 or older can visit the Thomas Built Buses Facebook page, "Like" the page and enter a photo that best represents the fun, excitement and nostalgia of riding the bus back to school to either elementary, middle, or high school. All photos must depict a school bus.
Entries will be accepted from August 1, 2014 through September 15, 2014.
HIGH POINT, N.C. — Thomas Built Buses announced on Wednesday that it will extend its standard warranty coverage for the Saf-T-Liner C2 as well as its warranty coverage for standard body and chassis paint on all models.
The Saf-T-Liner C2 base warranty will provide three-year or 50,000-mile coverage for units built on or after Oct. 1, 2014. This is an extension over the previous one-year warranty. The warranty will cover the chassis and many other components, including electrical and manual controls, safety equipment, assemblies and more. Normal wear items are excluded.
The cost of parts and services plays a significant role in the total cost of ownership. Obviously, the more you spend on parts and services throughout the year, the higher your total cost of ownership. Purchasing cheaper parts or skimping on maintenance and necessary service visits might lower your initial cost, but in the end you'll pay much more when parts start to fail.
So how can you lower your total cost of ownership? By choosing a quality, durable product backed by a strong warranty.
Thomas Built Buses traditionally has offered some of the most robust warranties in the industry. And now it's made two of those warranties even stronger, which means more savings for you. Thomas Built Buses has just lengthened the coverage period for both the company's standard Saf-T-Liner® C2 base warranty and the standard body and chassis paint coverage for all models.
MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. — Powertrain Integration (PI) has named its 8.0L V8 propane autogas engine the PIthon.
The unit has been selected as the engine platform for Thomas Built Buses' new propane-powered Saf-T-Liner C2 school bus, which is expected to go into full production in late May or early June 2014.
Thomas Built Buses is pleased to announce the expansion of its green vehicle lineup with the new Saf-T-Liner C2 fueled by propane autogas. The first few propane C2 models have already been delivered to a select few customers, and Thomas Built Buses is now beginning to ramp up full production.
How is it spec'ed?
Built upon the popular Saf-T-Liner C2 model, the propane autogas C2 comes complete with an Allison 2300 PTS Series transmission and a 8.0-liter liquid propane gas (LPG) engine with fully-integrated CleanFUEL USA liquid propane injection system. The 2-tank set-up has an estimated 300-mile range with a 70-gallon capacity.
Thomas Built Buses will partner with Seattle-based Zonar Systems to provide factory-installed telematics features for Saf-T-Liner C2 school bus models as standard equipment, company officials announced on Monday.
"This innovative electronic management solution will deliver valuable computerized information on maintenance issues and key engine events that could transform the school bus industry," said Ken Hedgecock, Thomas Built's vice president of sales, marketing and service.
Through the partnership with Zonar, Thomas Built will offer an onboard telematics option with the capacity to go beyond just GPS tracking.
The cost of fuel and overall fuel efficiency are significant factors that can drastically affect the total cost of ownership (TCO) of your fleet. Thomas Built buses, which have Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) emissions systems, can provide from 7% to 27% better fuel economy than traditional Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) technology. Alternative fuel buses with compressed natural gas or propane autogas engines may be able to offer even greater fuel savings.
But what if you cannot afford a new bus at this time? Or, what if you have a newer bus but wish to reduce your fuel economy even more? The solution may be in your drivers' driving habits. By monitoring and changing your drivers' habits, you could start to see significant fuels savings, not to mention reduced emissions and even an improved safety record.
Article original published by School Bus Fleet. Written by Thomas McMahon.
Do kids know what it takes to be a school bus driver?
Surely most children aren't aware of all the specific requirements - the training, the background checks, the testing, etc. But they do seem to understand that being a school bus driver is a tough job that not everyone is cut out for.
That's one of the impressions I got as I was judging entries in the Children's Choice School Bus Driver of the Year essay contest, which Thomas Built Buses conducts each year. Consider these comments from several of the essays:
Are you Protected?
Corrosion protection has never been more important than it is today, especially since winter weather de-icing chemicals are stronger than ever. Road salt is a major corrosion culprit, but even worse are newer de-icing formulas, which include calcium chloride and magnesium chloride.
On any bus, protective finishes can wear off over time, or become damaged from rocks or gravel. When corrosive elements such as acid rain or de-icers settle on the body or up in the undercarriage, they slowly eat away at the chassis, bumpers, or even wiring of the bus, resulting in destructive and costly damage.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that damage from corrosion costs around $276 billion each year for school buses and trucking combined. Because buses are expected to have a longer lifecycle than many other vehicles, premature bus retirement due to corrosion damage is not a wise risk to take.
Spending a little more time and money to prevent corrosion can drastically decrease your maintenance costs down the road, lower your overall total cost of ownership, and keep your bus on the road longer.
HIGH POINT, N.C. — Five schools across the U.S. were each awarded $2,000 for their programs in science, technology, engineering and math in recognition of the winning entries of the inaugural Thomas Built Buses Back to School Photo Contest.
The schools to receive the prize money are:
- McEndree Elementary School, Flora, Ill.
- Chancey Elementary School, Louisville, Ky.
- Spencer School, Middletown, Conn.
- Central School, Huntsville, Ala.
- Kalama (Wash.) School District
How much do you pay for a bus after you pay for a bus? It's not just about the purchase price. You have to consider fuel costs, as well as maintenance cost, warranty reimbursement, replacement parts and overall durability. All of these add up to the real cost — the total cost of ownership.
The problem is, if you don't truly know what your total cost of ownership is — the costs of particularly older buses can start to add up, leaving you scratching your head as your bottom line shrinks.
Fleets like Lee's Summit, Kansas City, Manatee County, and Prince William County have all found the true value and savings in measuring their total cost of ownership. With a little help, you too can find success.
To learn more about how you can successfully start down the road of measuring your total cost of ownership, check out the video below. After all, that savings that you can accrue during the lifetime of your bus can really start to add up.
Investing time in maintenance and money in better equipment for school buses have not only improved the performance of Prince William County Public Schools' fleet, it has cut costs significantly.
The fleet, composed of 850 Thomas Built route buses, serves 93 schools and transports about 61,000 students daily, according to Director of Transportation Services, Ed Bishop. The drivers log an estimated 11.3 million miles per year.
Cutting costs started with examination of data from a crash review board. The operation wanted to determine if bus design or maintenance had an impact on the numbers or types of crashes taking place. Data from the maintenance management system were also studied to see where the biggest expenditures were, and what types of common faults were being experienced.
Let's start with a very basic question: Do you actually save money by purchasing new buses, even with capital costs in the mix? Depending on the age of the buses in your current fleet, the answer is absolutely. New buses will automatically save money in fuel costs and maintenance costs and reduce the average age of the total fleet. This savings, combined with adding financing options to your transportation strategy, will allow your operating budget to go even further.
To illustrate this point, let's look at a recent case study.
In a 10-year lease-purchase agreement, Lee's Summit R-7 School District will replace its diesel fleet with 149 new Thomas Built school buses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG).
Officials touted the move as the nation's largest school bus transition to CNG and said that it will reduce fuel costs while benefiting students and the environment. The district's program also includes a shift toward CNG-powered facility maintenance trucks and continued use of all-electric delivery trucks.
Total cost of ownership (or TCO) is defined as the total cost of a bus over its entire lifetime. TCO includes direct and indirect costs including, but not limited to, the total cost of the bus, financing, fuel costs, maintenance charges and parts. When expanding or updating your fleet, oftentimes the initial purchase price of the bus is paramount. However, without examining the total cost of ownership of that bus, you may be in for a few surprises - especially when you may be operating buses for up to 20 years.
Luckily, Thomas Built Buses is here to help. We'll be exploring the different factors that influence total cost of ownership and provide tips on how to lower your TCO, whether you are in the market for a new bus or you just want to cut out some costs of your current fleet.
Today, we'll be looking at ways to decrease your fuel costs.
Snowy winters, hot summers, steep hills, pollution-trapping inversions, and thousands and thousands of college students depending on you to get them to classes on time. That's just part of what the University of Utah and Utah State University have to deal with. Fortunately, the Thomas Built compressed natural gas (CNG) buses that both universities have incorporated into their on-campus transit fleets are doing their part to make life just a little easier.
A commitment to continuous improvement and leading the industry through innovation are cornerstones of the Thomas Built Buses culture. Feedback from a recent Saf-T-Liner® C2 focus group made it even more apparent to Ed Swaim, Thomas Built C2 product manager, and Ken Frazier, market development manager, that communication is an essential component of continuous improvement, and that Thomas Built is seeking input, listening and responding.
We've always known that the fuel economy of our SCR-equipped buses was better than that of an EGR-equipped bus, so we set out to provide measurable, verifiable information to help our customers choose the school buses best suited to their needs and their budgets. The test results demonstrated that the Thomas Built C2 with SCR technology results in a seven to 27 percent fuel economy advantage over the IC CE series with EGR. How's that for proving our point?
While many school districts traditionally have used budgeted funds and bond offerings to pay for new school buses, in today's tight economy, finding funds for needed buses can be a challenge. Working with Daimler Truck Financial some school districts, like Suwannee School District in Live Oak, Fla., are taking a different approach to reducing costs and purchasing new buses.
The KCKPS transportation team is saving time and money after a smooth integration of 47 new compressed natural gas Thomas Built HDX buses. Although the district hasn't yet received its first gas or electricity bill for the new buses, at $1.19 a gallon for natural gas and $3.29 a gallon for diesel, the director is sure he's "saving more money than you can shake a stick at."
When it comes to maintenance and repairs having the right information means more than having a service manual for reference. In the Thomas Built network, it means delivering hands-on training to our customer base so they have the right information. Kerlin Bus Sales and Leasing is a model of how effective that approach can be.
Thomas Built Buses' customer commitment reaches far beyond our dedicated employees and high quality products. Across North America, Thomas dealers focus on creating customer relationships. Dealer W.C. Cressey & Son shares its approach to customer service and how it creates the Thomas Built Customer Experience.
Much to the delight of Quitman (Mississippi) School District transportation director, Charlie Shelton, the district's new Thomas Built SCR-equipped Saf-T-Liner® C2 buses are already saving the district money through improved fuel economy and turning heads everywhere they go.
Across the country, states celebrated February as "Love the Bus" month to recognize school bus drivers and the role school buses play in providing safe and environmentally-friendly access to education.
In its 95-year history, Thomas Built Buses has developed a reputation for the quality of its school buses, and at the same time has created a legacy of employee loyalty that spans generations.
As the company approaches its 95th anniversary, Thomas looks back at the founding principles that have shaped it into an industry leader in innovation, with a proven track record of hard work, shared values and trusted relationships.
Gary O'Brien's passion for preserving his childhood memories of riding a Thomas bus led to an impressive restoration project of his own high school marching band activity bus, now fully rebuilt and in operation with O'Brien Bus Service. O'Brien's enthusiasm for "Yellow" is shared by many who rode Thomas buses as children.
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