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Technology Making Buses Safer, Easier to Maintain and More Efficient

Due to several key innovations in the school bus industry, school buses today are safer, smarter, cleaner and more efficient than they were ten or five years ago.

It’s true that school buses remain the safest form of transportation to and from school but, because even one bus-related injury is one too many, Thomas Built Buses strives to make school buses even safer. Thomas Built’s BusWise® Technologies, which are available on the Saf-T-Liner® C2, enhances the driver’s awareness of the bus and everything surrounding it through the latest in safety technology and innovations.

Since many school bus accidents happen outside the bus, knowing your surroundings is extremely important. One of our most popular features on the BusWise® platform is the PV360® multi-camera, which provides a 360-degree view of virtually everything surrounding the bus. Drivers can easily see children in front of the bus or crossing behind the bus, as well as lanes of traffic approaching on both sides. In addition, Thomas Built Buses also offers a factory-installed warning system from Mobileye® N.V. to help prevent forward collision, pedestrian collision and lane departure.

Finally, SmartTracTM Electronic Stability Control (ESC) by Meritor WABCO intervenes automatically when it senses instability, which could lead to rollover or loss of bus control. This technology does not replace the need for safe driving, but it does help correct course when the bus loses stability, a huge plus for any driver, especially in tricky weather.

Technology That’s Making School Buses Easier to Maintain

When it comes to school bus maintenance, there is only one form of technology you need to be familiar with, and that is telematics. Telematics, which is the transmission of computerized data such as engine diagnostics, driver behavior and even student tracking, is the future of the school bus industry and a terrific way to update your school bus fleet.

At Thomas Built Buses, we believe in telematics so much that we install the Zonar® V3 telematics control unit on all of our buses – the Saf-T-Liner® C2Saf-T-Liner® EFXSaf-T-Liner® HDX and Minotour® – as factory-installed, standard equipment. Zonar plugs into the bus’ engine and on the Saf-T-Liner C2, it plugs into the bus’ proprietary multiplex wiring system. This enables the system to oversee multiple chassis and body features and components through Zonar’s Ground Traffic Control system, which provides immediate data over the air. It can monitor activities such as seat belt use, door opening and closing, wheelchair-lift activation, stop-arm operation and parking brake engagement. And the list goes on to include things such as engine idle time, stop sign and cross gate functionality, maximum road speed, engine fault codes, and more.

Fleet managers can also monitor school bus location, mileage, fuel usage and driver behavior such as speeding, excessive idling, hard acceleration, braking and cornering.

Through all of these data points, fleet managers will have insight into maintenance issues before they become larger repairs, saving repair costs and unnecessary downtime. Plus, routine maintenance can be automated and even scheduled.

Coming later this year, the new clean-diesel Detroit™ DD5™ and DD8™ engines will represent best-in-class fuel economy and reliability in addition to the longest service intervals in its class, with up to 45,000-mile oil and fuel filter change intervals.*

Plus, both engines will include Detroit Connect Virtual Technician remote diagnostic system, which will provide the most in-depth and advanced engine diagnostics and intelligence in the industry. This advanced form of telematics is specially built for Thomas Built clean-diesel school buses and simply isn’t available for propane, gasoline or compressed natural gas engines.

Through this state-of-the-art system, fault code details will be relayed to the fleet manager via e-mail or notification via the Detroit Connect portal. Critical faults will be sent to the Detroit Customer Support Center, where an expert will analyze the fault event further, and provide additional details. Do you need to pull the bus over? Can you wait until the end of day to perform maintenance? Can you wait longer? How serious is it?

Within minutes, your fleet manager will know the cause of the code and the level of severity, receive recommendations for fault resolution and the parts needed for the repair.

Knowledge is power. Through today’s advanced telematics, both Zonar and Detroit Connect provide the knowledge to effortlessly maintain a school bus fleet and make smart decisions on when to perform maintenance and repairs and even how to reduce future fuel consumption.

“So, what is all of this new technology going to cost me?” you might ask. Surprisingly, not as much as you might think. Thomas Built Buses’ telematics options now come standard on all school buses; no aftermarket installation is necessary. And the data gleaned from Zonar and Detroit Connect will help save money down the road. As for some of the safety technologies, they are gaining headway in the industry and are becoming options that are commonly spec’ed on buses across the country.

If you would like to know more about some of the latest technologies available for your school buses today, speak with a local dealer.

* Or either 18 months or 1,500 hours, whichever comes sooner.
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