With 80-plus vehicles on the show floor BusCon 2016 had something for every type of bus operator who visited the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis Sept. 19 to 21. Nearly 150 exhibitors — 40 new to the event — showcased the latest technological solutions on the market today. Other notable additions to this year’s event were the launches of the Transit Maintenance Forum and BusCon Connect — a hosted-buyer’s program, which brought buyers and sellers together in a one-on-one setting to better facilitate productive communication amongst key contacts.
Highlights from the show floor included Arboc Specialty Vehicles’ new Spirit of EQUESS transit bus — the first-ever purpose-built, medium-duty, rural low-floor transit bus. The Spirit of EQUESS, winner of the BusCon booth award for “Best Vehicle Innovation,” features a flat floor all the way from the entrance door to the rear row of seats.
“It was designed with ‘accessibility for everyone’ in mind, and will have a rear engine set up available in diesel or CNG,” said Arboc President/CEO Don Roberts.
Additionally, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) showcased Arboc’s Spirit of Liberty low-floor paratransit shuttle built on FCCC’s XBA low-floor, medium-duty chassis. In addition to offering a completely open floor plan with no interior step over the rear axle, the XBA also enables the Spirit of Liberty to feature an extra-wide interior and no open steps throughout the passenger area.
Other Booth Award winners, included ACTIA Corp. (Best Booth: 300 sq. feet or less); REV Group (Best Booth: 400 sq. ft. or larger; and Best On-Site Marketing); and Micro Bird’s D-Series MD vehicle (Best New Product/Service).
The inaugural Transit Maintenance Forum (TMF), offering transit maintenance professionals insight on the latest federal regulations, as well as information on the newest technology set to reach their shops in the very near future, was launched at this year’s BusCon.
The showcase of TMF was a session featuring the FTA’s Marcel Belanger, who discussed the administration’s recently released Final Rule for its revamped Bus Testing Program, which is switching to a Pass/Fail system and will impact the way buses are assessed at the agency’s testing facility in Altoona, Pa.
Also on hand was the American Public Transportation Association’s director, operations and standards, Jeff Hiott, who gave an overview of the FTA’s State of Good Repair (SOGR) Final Rule, which requires transit agencies to implement a Transit Asset Management (TAM) plan within two years and establish preliminary SOGR performance targets by January 2017. The rule also establishes new reporting requirements to the National Transit Database.
Gary Glasscock, TMF steering committee member and VP, fleet and facilities, for San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit, also joined the discussion to give an overview of his agency’s efforts to get ahead of the SOGR Rule, including lessons learned along his agency’s path.
“Fortunately, the TAM requirement is a not big departure, but really a more formalized procedure than what we were doing before,” said Glasscock.
The second day of the forum featured tech talks from EnerDel, Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification (WAVE), I/O Controls Corp. and WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff representatives.
During his presentation, “Predictive Maintenance with Hybrid and All-Electric Fleet Technology,” EnerDel’s CEO Michael Canada discussed the benefits of advanced lithium-ion technologies, including its ability to provide a broad spectrum of technology solutions, facilitate technology/application pairings, and create highly adaptive mechanical packaging.
Meanwhile, WAVE’s CEO, Michael Masquelier discussed the growing usage of electric vehicles around the world, as well as his company’s rapid-charging solution for electric buses, which is being used at several transit agencies and on a variety of different manufacturer’s buses, including BYD, New Flyer, Gillig, and Proterra. Masquelier also discussed how “opportunity charging” with solutions like WAVE can and have helped extend the range of electric buses currently out on the road.
During his keynote address: “Creating Rock Solid Strategies for Transportation, Business and Life,” USSC Group’s Ray Melleady discussed keys to success at any level, including stakeholder engagement, creating an action plan, and performing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis not only on your organization but yourself as well.
Lack of buy-in from key stakeholders, unclear goals, improper organizational structure, absence of purpose, lack of accountability, and inadequate communication/feedback loops are some key reasons a strategic plan could fail, according to Melleady. He added that only 15% of employees know their company’s top priorities. Even worse, only 6% know their individual priorities.
Melleady said that it is important to convert your plan to a purpose so employees have meaning to what you are doing as an organization. He also encouraged attendees to not go for the touchdown when making plans, but rather be comfortable taking incremental strides forward toward your ultimate goal.
Electric vehicles, succession plans
Meanwhile, this year’s educational sessions focused on everything from succession planning to driver safety, with alternative forms of vehicle propulsion continuing to be a hot topic.
During the electric bus session Calif.-based Antelope Valley Transit Authority’s Len Engel, who also moderated, discussed his agency’s ambitious plan to be “Green by 2018.” The presentation also featured representatives from electric bus suppliers BYD, New Flyer, and Complete Coach Works, who each discussed the evolution of the technology and what they had planned for the future.
IndyGo’s Director, Maintenance, Vicki Learn also spoke about the successes and setbacks her agency have faced since adding 21 electric buses to their fleet. Some key strategies she discussed before adding technology such as electric buses, included creating a standard operating procedure to train on fleet service responsibilities, offering as much driver training as you possibly can, offering maintenance and high voltage training at first bus arrival, and hosting thermo event training with internal employees along with first responders to your region prior to bus launch.
Greater Dayton RTA’s Chief Performance Officer Gene Rhodes discussed the importance of succession planning as well as how has agency has been able to get in front of the issue. Rhodes used RTA’s shifting demographics, which showed a trend of more millennials and generation x-ers and less baby boomers comprising the agency’s workforce over the last two years. To address the issue, Rhodes suggested assessing your leadership team, including their education and skills, as well as interviewing employees to see what their professional goals are to identify high potential/high performance employees. At RTA, the agency then aligned those high potentials with key positions and created a five-year career development plan, which includes tuition and financial assistance for degree completion at both the bachelor and master degree level. Its plan also includes certification and skill development classes.
Since implementing its plan, RTA has increased its high-performance group to 20 partici pants and already helped them find about five successors for key positions within the agency.
Other sessions held throughout the three days included two sessions hosted by the United Motorcoach Association, a look at how LA Metro is going above and beyond to ADA requirements, tips for transitioning from a limo operator to a full-service ground transportation company, and how to manage and measure customer service.