A growing focus toward sustainability and safety, both on the show floor and at operations themselves, were key themes at 2014’s BusCon, which was held for the first time at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

At least six electric vehicles, ranging from passenger vans to cutaway buses to a mid-sized transit bus and a trolley bus, were featured both on the show floor and at a special ride-along held in conjunction with the show.

Eco-vehicle options
Complete Coach Works (CCW), which won BusCon’s Best Green Initiative award, featured a converted all-electric trolley bus that was used at the University of California, Riverside. The 33.5-foot trolley uses the same advanced lithium battery and liquid-cooled drive system technology as CCW’s Zero-Emission Propulsion System (ZEPS) transit bus and has a range of 85 miles with a charge time of 3.5 hours. CCW also recently received the Advancement of Air Pollution Technology award from the South Coast Air Quality Management District for its ZEPS bus system.

CCW's ZEPS-powered trolley bus.

CCW's ZEPS-powered trolley bus.

BYD showcased its 26-foot Mid-e bus, featuring its iron-phosphate battery with a 182.5 kWh battery capacity, an AC synchronous motor, and a ZF low-floor axle/BYD in-wheel traction motor axle chassis, while Ameritrans introduced its Eco-Charge coach, which transports up to 12 passengers and features custom built-to-order options to the mid-size vehicle market.

Phoenix Motorcars also featured its ZEUS electric vehicle for the shuttle market, which gives operators 100 miles per charge and can reduce fuel and maintenance costs by 80% and 50%, respectively, according to the company.

Additionally, two of the approximate 18 vans on the show floor were propelled by electricity. Zenith Motors’ Electric Shuttle Van featured a modified Dodge Ram 2500 with an airport shuttle interior, which used lithium-ion batteries with regenerative braking and has a range of 110 miles. VIA Motors’ shuttle van features an economical 4.8L V8 GEN IV combustion engine to generate electricity to automatically charge the batteries, giving it a range of 35 miles on batteries and up to 400 miles or more through regenerated power.

There were also plenty of new propane unveilings on the BusCon show floor as well.

ICOM North America LLC is partnering with Winnebago Industries for the installation and distribution of its ICOM JTG II bi-fuel and mono-fuel liquid propane autogas (LPG) injection system in Winnebago’s Metro Link buses, with a version of the bus on display for the first time anywhere at the show.

The partnership, in conjunction with Winnebago Metro Link North American master distributor Metro Worldwide LLC, will allow work-ready, alternatively-fueled buses to be delivered direct to dealers and end users. Metro Worldwide will also offer ICOM liquid propane autogas conversions for existing bus fleets, as well as full-line sales, service, installation and warranty services.

BusCon 2014 took place in Indianapolis after several years in Chicago. One thing that didn’t change, however, was a packed show floor with all the latest technologies available in the industry today.

BusCon 2014 took place in Indianapolis after several years in Chicago. One thing that didn’t change, however, was a packed show floor with all the latest technologies available in the industry today.

The advantage of the bi-fuel system is fleets can actually test and evaluate the system themselves, because they are able to run on either gasoline or LPG and compare the mileage, compare the performance and compare the drivability,” said Perry Ressler, strategic alliance and marketing manager for Metro Worldwide. “Also, if there is an issue on the gas or LPG side, the unit doesn’t become inoperable in the fleet because users are able to operate on the opposite fuel source until that issue is resolved.”

Meanwhile, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC), which won the BusCon award for Best Vehicle or Chassis, showcased a propane-autogas concept version of its popular S2C chassis.

The S2C LPG concept FCCC showcased at BusCon is powered by the “PIthon,” an 8.0 LPG engine from Powertrain Integration with a factory-installed CleanFuel USA LPG system. The 60-gallon, between-the-rails LPG tanks can provide a range of up to 300 miles.

Key features and benefits of the S2C LPG concept, include a quieter-running engine; reduced maintenance costs and downtime; significantly reduced fuel costs for buses in continuous-running applications; and excellent cold-weather starting and faster warm-up times.

There were also several other vehicles showcased on the show floor, including Champion Bus’ LF Transport with FLEXBUS technologies; the new LX luxury model of Mobility Ventures’ MV-1 vehicle; New Flyer’s MiDi bus and the debut of Thomas Built Buses’ TRANSIT-LINER™ C2 bus. To view all the new products unveiled at BusCon, click here.

This year's BusCon featured informative sessions, including Louie Maiello's talk on safety.

This year's BusCon featured informative sessions, including Louie Maiello's talk on safety.

Session highlights
Interest in propane autogas usage was further generated by the educational portion of BusCon, during the “Implementing Propane Autogas Vehicles” case study, presented by Lynn McLean of Mich.-based Flint Mass Transportation Authority (MTA).
McLean was joined by ROUSH CleanTech’s Todd Mouw and AmeriGas’ Warren Patterson. The group provided an overview of the technology itself, while also focusing heavily on MTA’s real-life experience with the alternative fuel, including the initial challenges it faced as well as the efficiencies they’ve found through the transition.

Two sessions focusing on safety were huge hits, with both garnering standing-room only attendance.

In the “Creating a Driver Training Program from Start to Finish” session, L-3 Communications’ Louie Maiello and Steve Mentzer examined the changing landscape of driver training education; reviewed the benefits of effectively integrating technology, including driving simulators; and most importantly discussed how to create training programs that will serve and support professional bus operators from the day they are hired all the way through to their retirement.

Key takeaways from the informative session included the need to select the best-qualified applicants; provide a validated, criterion-based training program; create a multi-layered comprehensive safety program; prescriptively retrain and monitor drivers; and continue to evaluate progress and redesign and implement new programs to address emerging needs.

Meanwhile during the “Do it Right, the First Time, Every Time” session, Transit & Paratransit Co. President Jeff Cassell, discussed the importance for bus operators to create a clear picture of what is expected from their drivers and hold them accountable when they make mistakes to remove risks when out on the road and create a safer level of overall, day-to-day service.

The focus of Cassell’s session was calling for operations to create safe NORMS — the normal and usual way every employee should behave automatically when performing their jobs. Some of the unsafe behaviors that should be addressed when an operation creates its NORMS include cell phone usage, following too closely, unsafe backing, rolling through stop signs and rushing to stay on schedule.

Additional sessions on tap during BusCon included the United Motorcoach Association’s “Understanding the FMCSA Safety Management Cycle;” how to save money on tires by improving your maintenance program; an RFP/IFB best practices talk by USSC Group’s Ray Melleady; how to find and attain grant funding; and what’s new with the FTA’s Altoona bus testing program.

Meanwhile, the Keynote Address at the Opening General Session entitled, “The Mental Edge,” featured Olympic Performance Psychology Consultant Dr. Craig Manning, who discussed how high performance is really not difficult to achieve if you just understand critical laws of the mind and how to adhere to them, meaning the key to success in life is in the acquisition of skills; not just physical skills, but mental, emotional and even spiritual skills.

The point of Dr. Manning’s presentation is to always focus on the positive rather than the negative as a way to continue to grow and be successful in all aspects of your life.

The PERC awards honored operators who have made a commitment to propane autogas usage.

The PERC awards honored operators who have made a commitment to propane autogas usage.

Awards and charity
BusCon attendees banded together to support wounded veterans by raising $1,300 for the Wounded Warrior Project®. Additionally, BusCon’s show producer, Bobit Business Media, matched the earnings bringing the donation to a total of $2,600.
The Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders sold raffle tickets for $10 a ticket at the “BusCon Happy Hour,” sponsored by Starcraft Bus. Tickets were also sold at the “Night on the Town” reception and the raffle drawing was held at Dick’s Last Resort. Three lucky raffle winners received a football signed by the Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck, a Luck football jersey and a GoPro HERO3 Camcorder, respectively.

The Wounded Warrior Project® is a nonprofit veterans service organization that offers a variety of programs, services and events for the U.S. military’s Wounded Warriors.

The Mid-Size Bus Manufacturers Association honored the top 10 transit fleets with the most mid-sized vehicles in operation, including the largest Chicago’s Pace Bus, during BusCon’s Breakfast Awards Ceremony.

Additionally, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and METRO recognized six top fleets for their recent adoptions of propane. The operations honored included Access Transportation Inc. in Fort Plain, N.Y.; Benzie Transportation Authority of Beulah, Mich.; Fla.’s Broward County Transit; the Muncie Indiana Transit System; and Cleveland’s Provide A Ride.

“This year’s award winners are a great example of how fleets can improve the economic and environmental well-being of their communities without breaking the bank to do it,” PERC Chief Business Development Officer Tucker Perkins said. “Propane autogas is a clean fuel that can also result in a strong ROI due to significant savings on fuel costs. Public fleets can trust propane autogas as an affordable, reliable fuel.”

In addition to CCW and FCCC, the rest of BusCon’s booth winners included: XL Hybrids for Best Booth Display (300 sq. ft. or smaller); Allied Specialty Vehicles for Best Booth Display (400 sq. ft. or larger); Freedman Seating Co. for Best New Product or Service; and REI for Best On-Site Marketing.

BusCon returns to Indiana in 2015, from Sept. 28 to 30.