• School Transportation Blog

    Current events, industry news, driver discussions and enthusiast blogs related to the school transportation industry.

    For most operations, school has been in session between a month to six weeks.  While the school year is still fairly new, it is transitioning from the chaos of "Back to School" to the routine of everyday.  (On a downside, new-bus scent is likely beginning to wear off...) 
    With routine setting in, operations are able to work as designed.  In reality, how are things going now?  Did it take long to get the bus routes running consistently?  Are the buses themselves running reliably?  Are other drivers safer around school buses now that they have been on the road for a while?
    Share your thoughts!  Feel free to post your comments to the blog; registered forum members can also respond in the blog discussion topic corresponding to this post.
    This week, commercial vehicle production in North America saw a major shift in its corporate landscape. On September 6, Navistar formed an alliance and joint venture with Volkswagen Truck and Bus, with Volkswagen taking 16.6% ownership of Navistar International, parent company of bus manufacturer of IC Bus.
    Based in Brazil, Volkswagen Truck and Bus is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, marketing commercial trucks and buses in Latin America under the Volkswagen, MAN, and Scania brands. With the exception of United States, Canada, and Mexico, all three nameplates are largely sold throughout the world. With Volkswagen entering the commercial vehicle market for the first time in North America, it is entering one of the only places in the world where it does not compete against Daimler AG, Volvo AB, and Paccar (the first two being the two largest truck manufacturers in the world).
    With this alliance, Navistar receives $256 million in funds.  Aside from the stake owned by investor Carl Icahn, Volkswagen will own the largest share of the company. Under the alliance, Volkswagen will have the right to appoint two members to the Navistar board of directors. Along with the cash infusion and investment in ownership, other collaboration is brought with the joint venture. In both the development and production of new vehicles, the two companies plan on sharing technology and parts supply, with Volkswagen integrating Navistar into its own supply chain alongside its other truck brands and both companies jointly developing powertrains in the future. In the future, this will lead to the joint development of other technologies as well.
    An alliance like this one in the automotive industry is a fairly major occurence, taking months to years of planning and decision-making. While IC Bus is not directly named, it affects their parent company, playing a major role in its future. In terms of Navistar and the Volkswagen subsidiary, what do you think of the alliance?
    How do you think it will affect the commercial vehicle segment in the future?
    We welcome any comments and your thoughts on this topic! Thank you.
    Further reading:
    VW Buys Stake in Icahn-Backed Navistar in Bet on U.S. Trucks Bloomberg
    Volkswagen Takes Minority Stake in Truck Maker Navistar New York Times
    Navistar Steps Off The Bankruptcy Brink With Volkswagen Partnership Forbes
    Volkswagen buying $256M stake in Navistar Chicago Tribune
    What is some of the news that went on in the student transportation industry in the past week?
    Massachusetts begins a pilot program with 4 eLion electric buses, Wisconsin adopts amber warning lights into law, and Nike kicks off the school year with school bus-themed basketball shoes.  In Missouri, a school bus driver gets tested by fire on the first day of school, while a North Carolina school system finds a way that might curb seat vandalism.
    Starting this week, School Bus Web is restarting one of its blog features.  On a regular basis (usually each week), our editors will compile a blog of various news articles related to the industry.  Each week, the blog will feature several articles for our website viewers to discuss.
    Article links: 
    New school bus law to take effect Tuesday (WISC-TV Madison|Channel3000.com)
    Massachusetts Puts $1.4 Million Into Electric School Bus Pilot Program (Cleantechnica.com)
    School Bus driver helps pull teen from burning truck first day on the job (WDAF-TV Kansas City)
    Parents to pay for children’s damage to school bus seats, or child could be suspended from bus (WGHP-TV High Point, NC)
    What do you think of the content featured in the news articles above?  Feel free to comment below!  
    Thank you.  

    Back to School 2016!

    By Jake, in Drivers Blog,

    Can you believe it's almost September? Many school districts across the country are heading back to school this month. As you enter the new school year, our staff team at School Bus Web wishes you a safe and excellent first day back.
    If your school year has already started, let us know how your first day went! If not, we encourage you to share with us how your district is preparing for the start of the new school year. We've also attached a poll at the bottom of this post for registered members to vote in.
    Not involved in school transportation? We encourage you to help promote school bus safety by respecting traffic laws and reminding others of cautions to take now that buses are back on the roads.

    At the 2016 STN Expo in Reno, Nevada, Blue Bird unveiled a number of significant changes to its Vision product line.  As the Vision saw exterior updates less than two years ago, nearly all of the revisions were made under the hood.  Alongside the introduction of the gasoline-fueled Vision, Blue Bird has introduced a total of three new engines for the bus in 2016.
    For the first time since the end of Caterpillar engine production after 2009, there will again be two diesel engine options produced for the Vision.  Alongside the Cummins ISB6.7, Cummins is introducing its 5.0L ISV5.0 V8 diesel for the Vision.  Depending on specification, the engine produces 200-275hp.  The ISV marks the return of a V8 diesel engine to a full-size Blue Bird for the first time since the 2008 discontinuation of the Blue Bird/International SBCV.       
    Since its introduction in 2012, ROUSH CleanTech has produced over 7500 Blue Bird Visions with its propane fuel system, featuring the Ford 6.8L V10 and 6-speed automatic transmission.  Using the same engine as a platform, Blue Bird and ROUSH CleanTech have developed two new fuel systems for the V10 engine.  Earlier this year, Blue Bird unveiled the gasoline-fueled version of the Vision.  At the STN Expo, the company unveiled the Blue Bird Vision with the engine powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), with deliveries to begin by the end of 2016.  While becoming the second CNG-fueled Type C school bus entering production (following the Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 CNG), all three alternative-fuel versions of the Blue Bird Visions utilize the same engine.
    To further improve its propane-fueled variant, Blue Bird and ROUSH CleanTech introduced its fourth-generation propane system for the Vision.  Building on the extended-range tanks previously introduced, the newest-generation system featured changes to optimize reliability and improve engine starting.
    What do you think of these revisions to the Blue Bird Vision product line for 2017? 
    If you were lucky to attend the STN Expo to see these buses running in person, what are your thoughts?
    Further reading:
    ISV5.0 - Cummins Engines
    Blue Bird Provides First Chance to Drive New Vision Gen 4 Propane Bus and Vision CNG Bus at STN Expo | News | Press Releases | Blue Bird.com
    Blue Bird Unveils Three All-New Powertrains for 2016 Introduction at NAPT Show | Business Wire
    Blue Bird Offers Ride-and-Drive Event with Propane, CNG Buses at STN Expo | NGTNews (Next-Gen Transportation)
    Will it run on diesel, propane, or 87-octane?  If the bus is an IC CE-Series, the latter may be added to the list in the near future.  At the 2016 School Transportation News (STN) Expo Conference and Trade Show in Reno, Nevada, IC Bus debuted its first gasoline-powered full-size school bus for the purpose of evaluation and test drives by show attendees.  Although its official production date has yet to be announced, the vehicle marks the return of gasoline power to an International-chassis school bus for the first time since the end of 1986 production.
    Why the return to gasoline-engine vehicles?  For many that have been on a school bus in the past 25 years (as either a rider or driver), the engine under the hood has likely been a diesel-powered unit (in Type D buses, inside the engine compartment instead of under the hood).  During the mid to late 1980s, diesel engines went from being higher-power options alongside gasoline engines to the primary type of engines used in full-size school buses.  As concerns remained over the stability of fuel prices in the 1980s, the higher comparable fuel economy of many diesel powerplants became a favorable attribute; "passing everything but the gas station" was not considered high performance for a school bus.
    During the late 2000s, clean-air regulations for diesel engines have become significantly more stringent.  To remain compliant and to allow for the continued sale of diesel engines in school buses (and all large trucks), engineering controls have been developed, at the expense of increased complexity, reduced reliability, fuel economy, and overall performance.  While alternative-fuel vehicles (in the school bus segment, propane/LPG and CNG) offer a "clean-air" solution and eliminate a number of performance drawbacks, potential buyers often walk away from the higher initial purchase price and the separate issue tied in with fueling infrastructure.
    Three decades after diesel overtook gasoline as the powerplant of choice, the landscape is changing again.  While over 90% of full-size school buses remain powered by diesel engines (the rest by propane and CNG), manufacturer IC Bus predicts a significant transition, with market share of diesel changing from the current approximate 92% to a figure closer to 60-65% by 2020. .tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;margin:0px auto;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;} .tg .tg-s6z2{text-align:center} .tg .tg-baqh{text-align:center;vertical-align:top} .tg .tg-amwm{font-weight:bold;text-align:center;vertical-align:top} .tg .tg-yw4l{vertical-align:top}
    Market Share Fuel Type (by year) 2016 2020 Diesel 92% 60-65% Alternative(Propane/CNG), Gasoline 8% 35-40% According to the engine manufacturer, gasoline will end up up serving as a "third alternative fuel", along propane/LPG and CNG.  Although it is also a fossil fuel alongside diesel, gasoline engines in medium-duty applications work with improved cold-weather starting.  In addition, the emissions treatment systems used for gasoline engines are far more stable than the emissions systems in use on diesel engines.  In stark constrast to propane and CNG powerplants, infrastructure is not an issue tied to gasoline; it is virtually impossible to find a filling station in North America that does NOT carry unleaded gasoline.
    The big question: what will be under the hood of the gasoline-fuel bus?  To save money and time over developing its own medium-duty truck engine (the last family of International Harvester engines used in school buses was first developed in 1959), Navistar outsourced the engine production for the gasoline IC CE-Series to Illinois-based Power Solutions International (PSI).  A designer and manufacturer of engines for clean-air/alternative-fuel systems, PSI has worked with the company in the engine supply for the propane version of the CE-Series.
    Using the same 8.8L V8 engine as before, PSI will be supplying the bus with a gasoline fuel system.  Rated at 265hp @2800RPM and 545 lb-ft/torque @1800RPM, the PSI V8 engine produces similar horsepower and torque output as the Cummins ISB6.7L diesel (depending on specification).  Along with the improved cold-start performance in the gasoline unit, IC Bus and PSI describe the primary difference between the gas and diesel engines as the lack of vibration and noise when running.
    .tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;margin:0px auto;} .tg td{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;} .tg th{font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;font-weight:normal;padding:10px 5px;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;overflow:hidden;word-break:normal;} .tg .tg-lqy6{text-align:right;vertical-align:top} .tg .tg-amwm{font-weight:bold;text-align:center;vertical-align:top} .tg .tg-yw4l{vertical-align:top} Gasoline vs. Diesel Engine Fuel Horsepower Output Torque Output PSI 8.8L V8 Gasoline 265hp 545 lb-ft Cummins ISB6.7  6.7L I6 Diesel 200-260hp 520-660 lb-ft Navistar MaxxForce DT 7.6L I6
    210-300hp 520-860 lb-ft Navistar MaxxForce 7 6.4L V8
                  200-230hp   560-620 lb-ft Discussion:
    What do you think of the gasoline-engined IC CE-Series?  If you were lucky enough to visit the STN Expo, did you have a chance to see (or drive?) this new vehicle?
    Do you think gasoline will be a "third alternative fuel" to diesel?
    References and Links:
    School Bus Fleet (Management) | IC Bus Unveils Gasoline-Powered Type C School Bus
    School Transportation News Online (Industry Releases) | IC Bus Demonstrates Gasoline Powertrain at STN EXPO
    Chicago Daily Herald (Business) | Navistar launches PSI-powered school bus at expo
    Yahoo! Finance | Navistar & Power Solutions International Launch Gasoline-Fueled IC Bus at STN EXPO
    According to School Transportation News, IC Bus announced this week that the company will begin to offer Cummins diesel engines on their RE-Series Type D product line.  As the RE is one of the very last Navistar products to use the long-running International DT engine family, this will match its powertrains with that of the CE-Series, which adopted Cummins engines during its 2015 production.
    IC Bus will introduce two newly redesigned medium-duty diesel engines for the RE-Series.  In 2017, the RE will become available with the Cummins L9 (which will replace the current Cummins ISL9 ), followed by the B6.7 (which replaces the ISB6.7) in 2018. 
    In the school bus industry, the ISL9 is in use by both the Blue Bird All American Rear Engine and Thomas Built Buses HDX while the ISB6.7 is used in a number of Type C and Type D school buses.

    Although output for school bus configurations of the L9 have not been announced, the ISL 9 currently is sold in outputs ranging from 260hp to 300hp as it is sold in the Blue Bird All American Rear Engine and Thomas Built Buses HDX.
    What do you think of the new IC RE-Series engine lineup?  Weigh in on this announcement in the comments or letting us know in the discussion forum! 
    School Transportation News - "IC Bus Introduces RE Series School Bus with Cummins L9"
    Cummins - "L9 for Medium-Duty Truck (2017)" - Cummins site with overview of L9 engine
    Happy Independence Day Weekend from School Bus Web!
    Instead of 240 birthday candles (that would be a huge cake!), there are a lot of fireworks celebrations across the country come Monday night!
    Whether spending it with family or friends, cooking or playing outside, make sure that your weekend is a safe one and have a good holiday weekend.
    Photo credit: http://4thjulyusa.com/nebraska-4th-of-july-fireworks/75/
    For nearly all school districts across North America, the 2015-2016 school year has come to its conclusion.  For those who drive the 485,000 school buses of the United States (and those who support them), there are two things that the School Bus Web team wants to say.  One of them is thank you for keeping everyone on the buses safe along with those sharing the road with the bus fleet.  Along the subject of safety, we are interested in finding out how safe things have turned out for each operation this year, small or large.
    Even if the school year was accident-free, there may have been many challenges to an operation doing so successfully.  While there are threats to safety every day outside (or inside) of the bus, there are also other types of challenges for some operations.  In addition with the accommodation of the needs of many different students, the challenges of student behavior, the complexity of new equipment, the issue of money can threaten the very existence for some transportation operations.
     What do you think was your biggest challenge for 2015-2016? 
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