The shifting congressional makeup, political action and an array of vehicles were the main focus at January’s United Motorcoach Association (UMA) Expo in New Orleans.
“We have 75 new members in Congress, new committee chairs and the Republicans have gained control of the Senate as well as the House, so we as an industry really have to reach out and educate them about what we do,” said UMA President/CEO Victor S. Parra about the key messages the association tried to convey to its members this year.
Part of that education is set to take place at the UMA’s Capitol Hill Days March 17 to 18, which gives owners and senior management from around the nation a chance to meet with their elected officials to discuss the industry’s most pressing legislative issues.
UMA’s key points for Congress this year will be focused on policies likely to be addressed in reauthorization of the upcoming surface transportation bill, including preservation of the Charter Service Rule prohibiting public transits from encroaching on charter business; protection of the federal fuel tax exemption for over-the-road buses; maintaining the current financial responsibility at $5 million; increased opportunities for contracting with local transit agencies and a host of regulatory reforms.
Parra told METRO that he feels the timing of this year’s trip is ideal since the current MAP-21 transportation authorization bill is set to expire in May.
“Looking at the legislative calendar, we believe that March will be the time Congress will start getting into the throes of the bill,” Parra said. “Before they put something on paper, we want our members to get engaged in the process and help advance our agenda.”
In addition to Capitol Hill Days, UMA is also focusing on pushing its political action committee (PAC), setting a fundraising goal of $100,000 for 2015.
“We have had a PAC for a while and we are always building on it, but we really want to accelerate it this year, because, again, this is a critical timeframe,” Parra said.
The UMA show floor boasted big news from vehicle manufacturers with new models on display, as well as a growing trend toward some smaller and specialty equipment.
Under the terms of an agreement signed at last year’s Expo, ABC markets, sells and provides aftersales service for New Flyer’s MiDi and Xcelsior buses through its established service locations and select independent dealerships.
During a press briefing on the show floor, Roman Cornell, executive VP, ABC Companies, explained the company is offering the vehicles through its sales network to private operators in several markets, including the motorcoach, airport, university/college, hotel/resort, and parking industries.
“We are always looking for new ways to augment business opportunities for fleet operators throughout North America,” Cornell said. “Our enhanced equipment lineup delivers an even wider range of specialty vehicles to support any number of fleet applications.”
In addition to also showcasing the newly designed Van Hool TDX double-deck coach, the company also announced plans to roll out a 35-foot version of its popular CX coach by the fourth quarter of 2015.
Key features of the new CX35 will include industry-leading interchangeable parts such as windshields, HVAC evaporator and motors, and front and rear bumpers; a tight turning radius for increased maneuverability and reduced operational expenses. The vehicle will also be manufactured on the same assembly line as the CX45.
Motor Coach Industries (MCI) unveiled the J4500 with a new tighter-turning ZF axle system with independent front- and tag-axle suspension; smooth-stopping Bendix braking with optional Wingman; radar-based adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation, as well as the two-door Setra S 417 with club corner lounge and Voyage Ambassador seats.
During a press briefing at the event, MCI’s CEO Rick Heller said the company continues to strive to be “the absolute best partner” it can be for its customers.
He added MCI’s main focus continues to be on improving the reliability of its coaches so operators can be confident when they purchase an MCI vehicle, enabling them to get the most for their investment.
Additionally, Heller explained that the company is making a major investment in improving its quality at its manufacturing plants and working better with all of its vendors to improve the reliability of MCI’s vehicles. He also discussed improvements in MCI’s improved aftermarket parts fulfillment, touting the company’s ability to ship “coach critical orders,” in full, 95% of the time within 24 hours.
Prevost showcased the latest version of its X3-45 Commuter Coach, which was the first vehicle to roll off the new production line of the company’s Plattsburgh, N.Y. plant.
Also featured in the booth, were a brand new 2015 H3-45 coach displaying the message “The #1 Choice” and a Volvo 9700 model, wrapped with vivid graphics representing the 2014–15 Volvo Ocean Race — a nearly nine-month long, around-the-world team sailing race held every three years.
BYD Motors Inc. unveiled the first long-range, 100% battery-electric over-the-road coach, the BYD C9 — a two-axle, 40-foot coach with seating for 47 people at highway speed for over 190 miles.
The BYD C9 is the first of three 100% battery-electric coaches the company will launch globally this year. The other two, a 45-foot, three-axle coach, named the C10, and a 23-foot coach with executive and transport configurations, named the C6, will be arriving by the end of 2015, according to company officials.
Alliance Bus Group and CAIO introduced a new 36-foot coach, the S3436, featuring a Cummins ISL 330-horsepower engine coupled with an Allison B400 transmission, all-wheel disc brakes with traction control, independent front suspension and Amaya A2Ten seating with three-point seat belts.
Other vehicles on the show floor included Temsa’s 30-, 35- and 45-foot coaches; Thomas Built Buses’ Transit-Liner C2; and a new 45-foot coach from CHTC USA Inc.
Amsterdam, N.Y.’s Brown Coach received METRO’s 2015 Motorcoach Operators of the Year Award (see page 32), while Compass Transportation of San Jose, Calif., won MCI’s Green Highway Award.
This year’s UMA Vision Award winner, small operator, was Pacific Coachways Charter Services of Garden Grove, Calif., with San Luis Obispo, Calif.’s Silverado Stages Inc. winning in the large operator category.
To view more photos from the event, click here.