Both attendees and vendors were enthusiastic about BusCon 2004, where several new products were unveiled on the show floor and educational sessions covered timely topics.
Security was the main focus of the conference, held in Chicago, and the most pertinent topic was how terrorism affects the bus industry. American Bus Association President Pete Pantuso moderated a security discussion titled "Passenger Security in a Terrorist Era." "The motorcoach industry is a strategic transportation reserve. Our buses were the only thing still running during the aftermath [of Sept. 11]," Pantuso said.
Security panelist Greg Hull, director of safety and security programs for the American Public Transportation Association, discussed the challenges faced by public transit because of its open infrastructure. He discussed elements that should be part of a safety plan, including security, training, emergency response planning and preparedness and hazard and risk assessment.
Other conference highlights included educational sessions on financing, onboard video surveillance and a roundtable on university transit. The conference broke a 10-year show record, with more than 1,200 attendees and 120 exhibitors.
Meanwhile, on the BusCon trade show floor, more than 60 commercial buses competed for attention. Generating particular interest among attendees were two medium-duty chassis that were introduced at the show.
International Truck and Engine Corp. unveiled a low-floor, kneeling chassis designed to fill a gap between cutaway shuttle buses and larger transit buses.
The International 3200 Integrated Mobility™ bus, which incorporates a chassis design by Heart Industries, has a capacity of 19 to 35 passengers. With its low floor and air-suspension kneeling system, it makes boarding and disembarking easier for customers, especially those with mobility problems.
Michael Cancelliere, vice president of International's Bus Vehicle Center, said the cost of the bus on a per-seat basis would be much lower than larger low-floor transit vehicles. "It's a tremendous amount of value," he said.
The rear-wheel-drive product is designed to fit several markets, including paratransit, assisted-living facilities and airport and hotel shuttles. To provide flexibility to customers, the chassis will be available to a variety of bus body manufacturers.
The chassis will come standard with International's VT 365 engine and already has begun Altoona testing. It's expected to be available at International dealers in early 2005.
International wasn't alone in debuting a new low-floor chassis. Workhorse Custom Chassis unveiled the LF72 chassis, a front-engine platform built specifically for the bus industry. The chassis has a standard 9-inch step-in height, which can be reduced to 7 inches with the kneeling option.
Workhorse officials said the LF72 is ready for a body on delivery. It has a gross vehicle weight rating of 19,000 pounds and standard front air-leaf springs and rear air springs. The chassis comes with a Duramax™ 6.6-liter engine that generates 210 horsepower at 3,100 rpm.