Growing Business Amidst Economic Downturn Prevailing Theme at UMA Expo

Posted on February 6, 2009 by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

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Federal Updates

FTA, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) representatives were on hand for the “Legislative & Regulatory Update” session.

The primary drafter of the Charter Bus Rules, Linda Lasley, assistant chief council, FTA, was on hand to discuss the newest developments at the federal level, including the transit agencies’ attempt to tone down or make changes to the rules. Lasley, who also served as the lead attorney for the FTA’s negotiated rulemaking for the charter service regulation, as well as the agency’s resident expert, was also given an award by the session’s moderator, Ken Presley, for her support to the industry.

Meanwhile, Kathryn “Kitty” Higgins, member of the NTSB, explained what the NTSB does and how they work with the motorcoach industry to improve safety. She also discussed the recent landing of a plane on the Hudson River, which ended with zero casualties.

“The key to the ‘Miracle on Hudson’ was training,” Higgins said, before urging the audience to follow the example by keeping its drivers well-trained.

Higgins also spoke about the NTSB’s suggestions to the motorcoach industry to help improve safety, giving unacceptable marks to this point on efforts to prevent medically unqualified drivers from operating commercial vehicles and for not installing on-board electronic recorders on all coaches. Higgins did note that positive — however, not completely acceptable — progress has been made by the industry to prevent motorcoach carriers from operating if they put vehicles on the road with mechanical problems or unqualified drivers behind the wheel; enhancing the protection of passengers, including structural improvements and the use of seat belts; and the restriction of cell phone use by drivers unless there is an emergency.

Show floor highlights

Suppliers and manufacturers were out in force showcasing their products in the exhibit hall, as well.

Daimler Buses North America brought a vintage Setra S 6, which originally made its debut at the 1955 Geneva Motor Show, to help celebrate its 25th year in North America. During a press conference, President/CEO Andreas Strecker and Chief Commercial Officer Pat Scully gave a company update for 2008, which included a 16 percent increase in revenue —­ a new record — and 10 percent increase in transit sales.

Prevost launched the European award-winning Volvo 9700 for the U.S. and Canadian market and introduced the redesigned H-Series coaches, featuring a new front end. The 9700 features the Volvo D13 engine as well as the group’s I-shift gearbox, which lowers fuel consumption. “If an operator wants to set himself apart from the competition, the 9700 is the coach to do it,” said Michael Power, marketing product line manager, coach, for Prevost.

Meanwhile, SafeGuard, in partnership with American Seating, introduced the Premier, a new seat featuring a 3-point seat belt and SafeGuard’s SmartFrame technology, which protects both belted and unbelted passengers through compartmentalization.

“We’ve introduced the product, the first shipments left the assembly line this month and the first coaches will ship next month,” said James Johnson, director of sales for the SafeGuard division of IMMI. “The response has been very positive.”

IC Bus LLC was also on hand to introduce its new 40-foot Concept Coach that will meet the EPA’s 2010 emissions standards without using urea.

On Friday night, during the 6th UMA Annual Vision Awards Banquet, UMA and the National Tour Association officials announced that the two associations have begun exploring the option of co-locating their shows in the future. Next year’s show will be in Las Vegas Feb. 23 to 27.

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