Since September 2003, the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority (KVRTA) in Charleston, W.Va., has been using a wheelchair tiedown system that features electronic retractors.
The Rapid Transit Tiedown (RTT) system, manufactured by Sure-Lok Inc., was retrofitted on a 37-passenger Orion bus.
The RTT system, which is ADA compliant, provides increased flexibility for location of wheelchair stations, as well as ease of maintenance and cleaning. Connected to bus power interlock, the system cannot be operated while a bus is in motion. A manual override feature allows wheelchair tie-downs to be attached or removed in the event of a power loss.
The bus features two of the systems, which were installed behind the front wheel wells. The system automatically controls the tension and release of wheelchair tiedowns. Electronic retractors provide quick, consistent tensioning and easy release of belts at the push of a button.
“The system is working out very well,” said Patrick Duncan, a KVRTA driver. “It’s a lot easier to use than a manual system, particularly attaching the straps to the rear of the wheelchair. After all four straps are attached, you just push a button and they tighten automatically.”
Said Mick Peaytt, KVRTA operations manager, “We’ve trained all 87 of our drivers on the system, and they all like it. The training was easy; we just gave each of them a booklet on the system. They’ve all been trained in wheelchair restraint, so it didn’t take long for them to catch on to the new system.”
The safety enhancement is also critical. “With manual systems, we’ve had instances where wheelchair occupants start wheeling toward the front of the bus before it has stopped,” Peaytt says. With the RTT system, occupants cannot release their wheelchairs when the lift power is off.
Maintenance of the system has not been a problem. ”The straps retract when they’re not in use,” Peaytt explains. “Our buses are cleaned daily, but dirt would build up in the wells where the straps are connected to the floor, making it difficult to slide and pivot them. You don’t have those problems with the Solo fittings. Based on its three-month pilot test, KVRTA has ordered several more buses equipped with the RTT system. Henry Raab