This week, NGVAmerica participated in the 19th Annual School Transportation News (STN) Conference & Tradeshow held at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada. Approximately 550 transportation directors, shop supervisors and mechanics, driver and safety trainers, state directors, and federal agency officials were present to network with fellow student transporters and walk the largest square footage national trade show in the industry.
NGVAmerica did not exhibit at STN Expo but was present to support the industry and membership. NGVAmerica members exhibiting included Cummins Westport (located in the Cummins booth), Daimler Trucks North America/Thomas Built Buses, and BAF Technologies who signed a deal with Collins Bus Corp this past December to produce the first dedicated CNG Type-A school bus in the U.S. The BAF-Collins collaborative is currently moving towards the crash test phase.
Noticeably not present at the show was the number one manufacturer of school buses for the past ten years, Navistar’s IC Bus. They ran a full page ad in this August’s issue of School Transportation News articulating their new clean-energy strategy to meet 2010 EPA emissions regulations in addition to addressing upcoming 2014 and 2017 greenhouse gas standards. Thomas Built Buses, who has the second largest school bus market share in the country, only exhibited their Saf-T-Liner C2e diesel electric hybrid bus. And number three Blue Bird Corp—who had the largest exhibition on the show floor—displayed an All American Rear Engine (AARE) CNG bus provided by Mount Diablo Unified School District and A-Z Bus Sales. Blue Bird was the first OEM to build a CNG school bus in 1991. Representatives from Lion Bus, a Canadian OEM, and Trans Tech Bus (TCI) both said that they are looking into providing a CNG option to their customers; however, nothing is planned for 2013.
Of recent concern to the industry are the aging school bus fleets with fifteen year old CNG tank cylinders. Cash-strapped school districts are looking for ways to deal with the issue of replacing these tanks which can cost $20,000 per bus. To address this problem in California, the South Coast Air Quality Management District applied to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), who, in turn, went to the state legislature to obtain funding (AB-923). Approval was successful, and funding from the expanded Carl Moyer Program for new tanks cylinders was placed into the “maintenance fund” with revenues generated from DMV registration fees. It is believed that several air quality districts will fund 100 percent of the tank replacement costs and thus prevent many school districts from sidelining numerous CNG buses.