School Bus Fleet

July 2014

A management & maintenance magazine for school transportation fleets

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24 S C H O O L B U S F L E E T • J U L Y 2 0 1 4 McKinney Sees Longer Bus Life, Diesel Dedication IC Bus President John McKinney says that school buses now have an average life cycle of nearly 15 years, which means that product durability and customer support are especially critical. He also points to diesel as the "backbone of the industry" and discusses the decision to offer the Cummins ISB engine. SBF: Our research has found that school bus sales increased the past two years, after declining for fve years in a row. What does this indicate about conditions in the school bus market? JOHN MCKINNEY: Your data and our data are the same. Conditions so far in 2014 are fairly positive as well. Demand for buses continues to be strong this year. So we're anticipating another good year for the indus- try. We're still not back to where we would have been in, say, 2007 and 2008, but we're moving in the right direction. The reality, I think, is that most of this growth is coming from pent-up demand due to extended replacement cycles. Buses have been run longer, and now they're at a point where some of that pent-up demand has to be satisfed. What other developments are you seeing in the school bus industry? One of the biggest developments over, let's say, four or fve years is the ongoing battle for state budgets for school transportation. While conditions in each state differ, today's new reality is that pupil trans- portation funding is no longer a given. When funding is cut, then cus- tomers aren't purchasing school buses as frequently. So our products have to last longer. I think our data would show that today the average school bus now has a life cycle of nearly 15 years. It's hard to fnd an- other industry that has a life cycle that long. So with longer life cycles, what does that mean? Districts and con- tractors alike are relying on manufacturers and dealers more than T he biggest news from IC Bus over the past year has been the addition of the Cummins ISB6.7 as an engine option for CE Series school buses. The move ties in with IC Bus' focus on of- fering a variety of diesel engines for its school buses, rather than expanding into alternative- fuel options as other school bus manufacturers have done in recent years. IC Bus President John McKinney calls diesel the "backbone of the industry," and he says that the mainstay fuel still accounts for 99% of the large school buses on the road. Still, he acknowledges that alt-fuel buses "have a stronger presence in the school bus market than they've ever had" and that "some of these technologies long term are very promising." In this interview with SBF Executive Editor Thomas McMahon, McKinney discusses these and other trends in the industry, includ- ing a shift toward more Type C school buses and fewer Type Ds; growth in the adoption of LED lighting; and an increased focus on driver ergonomics. IC Bus President John McKinney says that most of the recent growth in school bus sales is from "pent-up demand due to extended replacement cycles." Q&A Q&A

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