The transit and motorcoach seating industry runs on innovation, and manufacturers are looking toward customer demand and emerging technology to guide development of new products.
Creating lightweight products is an evergreen trend in seating, as lighter products result in more efficient vehicles that can travel further. A key focus for seating manufacturers in developing new products is reducing weight from iteration to iteration.
“It’s weight and economics that drive the industry,” says Tony Everett, HSM Transportation (HSM) president.
A greater push for lightweight seating is also driven by a shift from diesel or CNG propulsion to battery propulsion, says United States Seating Co. (USSC) Executive VP Raymond Melleady.
“With battery propulsion, weight is distance,” he says. “The more weight you take out of a vehicle, you allow that vehicle to travel further distances.”
Hygienic design and equipment maintenance is also a growing trend in the industry.
“We’re seeing a high amount of interest in going away from foam and fabrics and more [toward] plastic seating products,” says Doug Oswald, marketing director for American Seating. The shift to plastic allows for easier-to-clean seats, he says.
Protective covers and antimicrobial topcoats are also growing in popularity. Vinyl performance covers allow manufacturers to apply silver ions into the material that neutralizes bacteria.
“[Manufacturers] will put a protective topcoat on a material, kind of like clear coat paint on a car that protects the color underneath,” says Freedman Seating Co. National Sales Manager John Mienik.
As passengers become more connected through smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, demand for USB outlets and chargers has grown. They are especially popular in bus rapid transit applications, where passengers are traveling for longer than 10 or 15 minutes at a time, says Melleady.
With a variety of available seating products and the evolution of new features and trends, customers have numerous things to consider when looking for the ideal option. Melleady recommends that buyers first determine what products would best fit the needs of the passengers based on the type of transportation, commute times, and items that riders may take onboard the vehicle. The ideal product would accommodate all passengers without sacrificing safety and security.
For Oswald, ergonomics is a major factor in determining what type of seat is best for any given application. He recommends allowing customers to personally test seating samples among internal staff and ridership to work out the best fit.
It’s also vital for customers to ensure that a product is reliable, says Everett. Mitigating liability through design, pretesting, and manufacturing, and checking if products are properly certified, protects both customers and OEMs.