Page 1


Volume 2



About Champion Bus


Testing ensures safe accessibility


Collins customizes the Ford Transit


Accessibility as philosophy


Luxury enhances access


Heavy-duty buses ramp up accessibility


By Robert Portney

By Matt Scheuler

By Greg Heichelbech

By Larry Mabery

By Mike Ammann

The future is mainstream accessibility 9 By John Walsh

Approach low-floor in tiers By Ryan Lamb




Download the Champion Bus: Equal access for all Volume 1 ebook.

About Champion Bus Industry pioneers Champion Bus, Inc., a subsidiary of Allied Specialty Vehicles (ASV), manufactures small and medium sized commercial buses for public transit, paratransit, parking, airport, hotel/ resort, assisted living, group tour, church and university markets. Champion Bus was founded in 1953 and located on 73 acres just outside Imlay City, Michigan. Champion is one of the pioneers of the mid-size commercial bus industry and began producing these buses in 1981. In 2012, Champion Bus acquired Federal Coach, and began producing a luxury line of buses. In October 2013, Champion was acquired by and joined the ASV Bus Division. Dedication to safety Champion was one of the first manufacturers to send a cutaway bus to undergo durability testing at the Federal Transit Authority’s Altoona, Pennsylvania testing facility. All products are in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), and more than 26 buses have been tested. Champion also tests all buses on a simulated Altoona test track at the manufacturing facility. All Champion Bus models are in compliance with the rigorous requirements of FMVSS No. 220 and ECE r.66 rollover safety tests. In the strict FMVSS test protocol, the steel cage structure of a Champion Bus shuttle model was evaluated without a skin or laminate and met a roof crush safety standard that ensured emergency exits remained operational during and after a rollover crash. In the ECE r.66, a Champion Bus shuttle model placed on a raised platform and tilted to simulate a rollover crash met a similar safety standard that ensured emergency exits remained operational during this type of crash. Champion was the first bus manufacturer to become QVM certified by Ford Motor Company. Champion has been ISO certified since 1999 and is currently registered as ISO 9001:2008. We highly emphasize safety in our organization, and often exceed best practices for our industry. Champion is one of the largest custom commercial bus manufacturers of small- to mid-size buses in the industry. In our state-of-theart facility, 300 dedicated employees utilize more than 194,000 square feet of manufacturing space to produce more than 1,500 mid-size buses per year. Visit Champion Bus online at | BUSRIDE



Testing ensures safe accessibility By Robert Portney There was a time when reinforcing a crack or failure simply meant throwing more steel at it. Today, however, advanced technology brings a much more analytical and scientific approach to assessing actual stress points. REV Bus Group is one of a few OEMs that actually simulates the durability of a bus, as well as various crash events, to locate any stress and failure points that may need additional reinforcement. Physical testing follows in order to prove simulation findings. With any new design, we start with a complete analysis of various failure modes. The next step is to develop a chart to predict failure modes in all circumstances, ranking them in the severity of the event; how difficult they are to detect; and when the failure might occur. Then, we design to each of those failure modes and more importantly, test to help ensure they never happen. Passenger safety is the first consideration in testing the structure, and that certainly includes safe accessibility for wheelchair passengers. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires specific testing for a wheelchair-accessible bus. Additionally, REV Bus Group has developed its own simulation for every pull test needed for the tiedowns and attachment points. Once the overall durability testing is complete, attention is solely focused on the wheelchair areas. However, it first requires scientifically testing the underlying structure and proving it is sound; followed by quality checks at the weld points as the bus is being manufactured. Of course, a low-floor bus alleviates many ADA concerns that involve

wheelchair lifts. The standard wheelchair ramp in a low-floor bus is far less complicated, simpler to operate and typically requires less maintenance. A ramp always works. If the electronic or hydraulic system is not functioning, the ramp can always be deployed manually very easily. According to ADA guidelines, wheelchair access requires specific wheelchair footprints and maneuverability requirements in terms of turning radius. So OEMs look to the ADA and federal requirements, but also refer to the APTA guidelines to ensure wheelchair positions are compliant. Wheelchairs secure to restraints attached to the floor and a seatbelt attaches to the sidewall. REV Bus Group thoroughly tests these areas for structural soundness, as well. Starting with the wheelchair ramp itself, OEMs cycle test the ramp to support 1,000 pounds in a simulation of a 7- to 10-year life cycle of the bus. The 1,000 pounds represents the weight of an individual and the typical mobility scooter. Side-impact and roof-crush testing is important as well, along with roll-over simulations. While these are not federal requirements, REV Bus Group takes safety very seriously and goes beyond the required testing for a typical transit bus. REV Bus Group recently partnered with the University of Buffalo in a comprehensive accessibility study that involved more than 20 mobility-challenged individuals. Their assignment was to ride a bus and rate it for both for ease and comfort in maneuvering on and off the bus. REV Bus Group incorporated many of the observations gleaned from the study into their bus design. The safest accessibility is dependent on FTA testing and analysis – and then subjecting those fi ndings to the biggest test of all: feedback from the people who ride — and depend on — demandresponse vehicles. Robert Portney is the engineering director for Champion Bus and Goshen Coach, part of the REV Bus Group. Portney has many years of valuable industry experience in bus and truck engineering and safety. Visit

LF Transport and Krystal luxury bus showing their safety and maneuverability on the Homestead Miami Speedway.



Collins customizes the Ford Transit By Matt Scheuler

The Collins Ford Transit is available in multiple floor lengths, yet a body length different unlike other Ford Transit upfits.

Paramount to a paradigm shift, Collins Bus Corporation, a subsidiary of REV Group, Orlando, FL, known for small and midsize school and student activity buses, is introducing its first commercial vehicle this month — inspired by the new Collins school bus and built on the Ford Transit chassis. While the Collins Ford Transit models differs significantly from its peers which are also built predominately for accessibility, its standard door openings, as well as wheelchair accessibility and securements, meet all ADA requirements for all OEMs. In terms of standard accessibility, the Collins Ford Transit comes with an electric door with optional manual door control at the entry, an ADA-compliant rear entrance sized for a standard lift — customer’s choice of Ricon or Braun ADA high-opening; extra wide for standard lift; as well as standard wheelchair restraints. The Collins Ford Transit is available in multiple floor lengths, yet a body length different unlike other Ford Transit upfits. This model seats 18 passengers with an optional feature for rear storage. The narrower, longer body length features five window sections plus and additional inches to accommodate a few more passengers or a proprietary collapsible storage space. As Collins bus has traditionally been a school bus builder, this new product brings Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding for paratransit opportunities to the company, and gets Collins into shuttle bus markets, as well as other conventional avenues for small and midsize commercial buses, which Collin has never participated in until now. Collins custom tailored the overall height of the Ford Transit to accommodate the larger, taller door opening integrated into the

Collins body, and presents a smooth sidewall. However, in spite of its differences from other Collins products, the Collins commercial bus is assembled on the same production line as every other product, with many standard features consistent with any other Collins vehicle. The body also features an optional extra external storage bay for tools and safety equipment, and is one of the only small buses in a commercial market to offer this feature. Beginning in 2014, Collins invested two years to develop and produce the Ford Transit concept and design for both school bus and commercial applications. In the meantime, REV acquired THOR Industries, which includes sundry small and midsize buses in its portfolio. At that time, REV saw little need to develop another, leaving Collins to continue its focus on school buses — until the appearance of the Ford Transit chassis. As Collins was already in on the ground floor, REV charged Collins to proceed with the concept for commercial markets. Drivers of the Collins Ford Transit School Bus are saying this is clearly the bus they want to drive. They attribute this to the unparalleled windshield visibility, and the fact that the Ford Transit handles more like a conventional SUV than its competitive cutaway vehicles. Drivers will no doubt have similar responses for the Collins Commercial Ford Transit. Matt Scheuler is general manager / vice president of Collins Bus Corporation, a division of REV Group. REV is a privately-owned corporation dedicated to serving fire & emergency, commercial and recreation specialty vehicle markets worldwide. Visit and | BUSRIDE



Accessibility as philosophy Last year, as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) celebrated its 25th Anniversary, BUSRide intensified its mission to explore the many ways the bus industry is improving the overall transit experience for passengers who rely on paratransit services. In this installment of Equal Access, Greg Heichelbech, REV Group president, Specialty Products, responds to questions on his company’s philosophy behind the vehicles that are safer, more inviting and more comfortable for people who travel in wheelchairs. What guides REV Group in its work to improve accessibility? It begins with the REV Group tagline – Vehicles for Life – which expresses our commitment to engineering and building vehicles that perform to very high standards for operators who manage transportation in life and death situations, such as medical emergency and fire protection. REV has since brought its philosophy of connecting and protecting to our specialty paratransit bus brands that operate in this arena, but certainly not to such extreme levels. Nonetheless, with the same level of compassion, we strive to provide this community with special vehicles that dramatically improve the lives of people using wheelchairs, and give them the freedom and access that perhaps they have not experienced in the past. We consider all the situations in which these individuals and their caregivers rely on these vehicles to go about their daily lives. What innovations by REV Group would the paratransit community see as going above and beyond? We make it our mission to understand the importance of what goes into the design and manufacture of our paratransit vehicles in terms of need and comfort. For example, as most passengers in wheelchairs are particularly sensitive to ride quality, ElDorado Mobility has chosen to install its own air suspension systems. Air suspension simply provides the smoothest possible ride at the adjustable height with the best kneeling capability, as well as the optimum ramp slope for easy loading and unloading. Has REV Group connected directly with the paratransit community in the design and manufacture of its specialty buses? Not only with this community at large – we have employees working in our company who use wheelchairs, as well as family members in wheelchairs who ride in our vehicles. For example, from their input and feedback, our ElDorado product incorporates the widest doors in the industry at 33 inches; the longest floor at 87 inches for 2 extra inches of foot room for a wheelchair passenger. We offer 58- and 60inch interior heights and a variety of chairs and seating configurations, and a ramp system that supports 1000 pounds. This is particularly significant as wheelchairs and scooters have become larger. REV conducts both formal and informal focus groups, in which we have many opportunities to hear from people at trade shows and conferences, and to interact with individuals who wish to sample the vehicles and be assured they’ll work for them. 6


The Dodge Amerivan PT by ElDorado Mobility.

As a matter of fact, our 10-inch drop floor is coming directly from such interaction and comment from end users. More than a few told us they absolutely did not want to feel like they were “siting in a hole in the back;” that they wanted to a clear view out over the dashboard. What lies ahead as REV Group works to enhance mobility for the paratransit community? In terms of product innovation, REV is working to expand on the existing features with new innovations currently in development as we speak. We will continue to improve through an aggressive approach to examine more durable materials and manufacturing processes that expanding the product line; all based on what we hear consumers asking for in the marketplace.

Heichelbech says the Eldorado Mobility logo makes a clear statement that the customer is at the center of every decision they make and every product they design.

Luxury enhances By Larry Mabery

Following on the recent innovations to paratransit vehicles that make basic accessibility easier and more accommodating, the question from passengers with special needs might be, “What’s next?” Beyond wheelchair lifts and convenient securements, the industry is clearly doing more in the pursuit of luxury to improve the overall shuttle bus experience for everyone on the bus, and that certainly must include people in wheelchairs. Many of today’s small and midsize specialty buses offer a sharper look with more comfort. Underneath, new suspension systems offer greater comfort on larger vehicles. The ride is at its smoothest with air suspension systems. More specific to passengers in wheelchairs, Operators have a myriad of options to heighten their experience on a luxury vehicle. For example, Federal features what it calls a clear-view wheelchair lift. Basically the platform folds in half, so it stays below the bus door windows. The person in a wheelchair, riding in the back, has the same view as any passenger in a regular seat. As the platform on a standard lift typically blocks the windows, the option of a clear-view lift can definitely improve the riding experience. Passengers with wheelchairs appreciate being able to see out and not have to look through a platform. Also, the same level of seating covers the lift area with the same look as the rest of the interior. Such features are essentially customer-specific, meaning end users that include assisted living centers and medical facilities are asking for these upgrades. Interestingly, they tend to favor finer seat upholsteries, darker interior colors and, above all, solid windows as opposed to a slider window. REV Group is looking into further applications for low-floor chassis. While our current low-floor vehicles are intended more for transit applications, we are researching new ways to “dress up” the concept for a high-end interior complete with a ramp that allows easier access for everyone.

Operators have a myriad of options to heighten accessibility on luxury vehicles.

Additionally, we are reconsidering where to ideally position the in-vehicle wheelchair lift – somewhere other than the rear of the bus, where most wheelchair passengers feel is the roughest ride in the bus. Our recommendation is to spec the lift for the front of the vehicle, behind the passenger entry door and close to the driver. This change offers a more enjoyable riding experience and a softer ride. It’s not a luxury amenity per se, but we are starting to see a trend for rooftop HVAC units, where the air flows evenly to the front, side and rear, reaching all the passengers — especially those in the back. In a standard A/C configuration, the evaporator blows out the air at the rear of the bus — right above someone in a wheelchair, blowing cold air right over their heads. The complete rooftop unit, such as our ACC Tropicool system, provides 360-degree cool airflow to every passenger throughout the bus. The idea is for every passenger to enjoy the same level of luxury provided by the complete package of comfort features and amenities, in addition to easier and more equitable access. Larry Mabery serves as brand manager to the Krystal and Federal Coach brands for REV Group. Visit for more information. | BUSRIDE



Heavy-duty buses ramp up


Some heavy-duty vehicles, like the pictured EZRider II, feature dual wheelchair ramps placed at the front and center doors of the vehicle.

In this installment of Equal Access, Mike Ammann, vice president of sales for ENC (formerly Eldorado National California and now a division of the REV Group), responds to questions on his company’s philosophy in regards to making heavy-duty vehicles more accessible. How are transit bus OEMs improving heavy-duty vehicles in order to make them as accessible — or nearly as accessible — as small and midsize paratransit vehicles? ENC manufactures a medium-duty front-engine low-floor cutaway, along with heavy duty, rear-engine standard and low-floor transit buses that range from 30 to 40 feet in length. It is safe to say that not all bus builders are fully committed to concept of complete accessibility. For the purposes of this discussion, we will focus on the ENC’s heavy-duty low-floor transit products, which are the most relevant to the ADA community because they focus expressly on accessibility in normal fixed-route applications. What advantages does the more accessible standard transit bus offer over other products in the market? Larger, heavy-duty low-floor transit buses with higher weight-rated chassis can accommodate up to six wheelchair positions depending on the length of the bus. This carrying capacity is simply not available on many small and midsize paratransit vehicles. In many cases, their chassis weight ratings are so low they can barely accommodate two wheelchairs and a full complement of ambulatory passengers. With ENC models offering GVWR ratings up to 43,000 pounds, wheelchair capacity is never an issue. What is ENC doing to improve accessibility on heavy-duty transit buses? With a growing ADA population, and the advent of larger and heavier wheelchairs and scooters, ENC goes to considerable lengths to modify its products to provide the necessary accommodations. All ENC low-floor vehicles feature a 102-inch interior with a wider aisle that makes it easier for wheelchairs and scooters to and park. 8


By Mike Ammann

Our rear engine low-floor models utilize a wheelchair ramp that is exceedingly flat with up to an 8:1 slope. Loading from a 6-inch curb, wheelchair and ambulatory passengers have nearly a straightlevel shot into the bus. This is superior to most small or midsize paratransit vehicles. By virtue of the wider bodies and heavy-duty chassis, larger buses offer the latest securement options, such as the Q’Straint Quantum, which can be heavy and require significant space within the bus. These can be cumbersome or impossible to install on smaller buses. Perhaps more unique to the industry, ENC’s 30, 32 and 35-foot E-Z Rider II and the 35 and 40-foot Axess models offer dual wheelchair ramps placed at the front and center doors of the vehicle. This dual setup allows wheelchair-using passengers to enter at the front door, pay their fare and exit at the back without disrupting ambulatory flow. This feature lowers dwell time at stops and affords all passengers an equal level of service. As an added benefit: Should the situation arise that a front-end accident damages the front entry and renders the ramp inoperable, a transit bus equipped with a second ramp at the center door provides emergency egress for wheelchairs and scooters. What should operators take into consideration before purchasing fully-accessible transit buses? With the option for front and / or center entry ramps, the transit agency has an opportunity to customize its ADA solution in accordance with its customer base. For example, agencies operating in areas with a larger wheelchair population will consider the center door ramp location. This entrance places the wheelchair ramp directly across from the wheelchair securements. Wheelchair passengers can move directly to the tie downs without disturbing other passengers. The center door ramp also alleviates the challenge of maneuvering longer, wider, heavier wheelchairs and scooters onto the bus, where the pitch point for that first turn at the front door is 90 degrees. That said, operators must determine if the center ramp would actually be out of position for boarding at transit stops designed only for a 40foot bus with one ramp at the front door. What further improvements in accessibility can operators expect in the future? Any lasting improvement in this area, such as a dual-ramp system and the recent innovations in securement systems, will give more consideration to the freedom and independence the ADA community is demanding from transportation providers. ENC literally searches the world over for such innovations. Mike Ammann serves as vice president of sales for ENC, a brand of REV Group. Visit for more information.


The future is mainstream


With today’s bus market needing some freshening, the industry’s focus should be on the future and what comes next; aimed at stepping up research and development to improve the rider experience for everyone.

This vision for the future goes beyond the act of getting on and off the bus. It encompasses the entire trip on buses that should become more inviting than ever. In a commodity market, everyone builds a similar simple bus without the essential upgrades that deliver a better ride. For example, to a visually impaired passenger, contrasting colors in a bus are very important. With buses built with black or gray flooring, we encourage agencies to mark the aisle in white. The contrast helps both wheelchair-using and ambulatory passengers navigate in and out of the bus. We try to give such attention to every aspect of the ride for the passenger in a wheelchair. Examples include providing grab rails for that position, as well as modifying the chime system that alerts the

The industry cannot continue as it has for the last 25 years, and needs to pick up the pace — namely in the area of accessibility, which is essentially the driving force of companies like ours. The industry may or may not agree, but we need have an eye on newness; brush the dust off what we have been working on, and make our intentions shine a little more. If we don’t, the industry plugs along with “commodity products”. These products tend to treat customers as commodities rather than serving them; which doesn’t fly favorable in the arena of accessible transport. Passengers with disabilities are expecting to travel less conspicuously as members of the mainstream. Though they require specific accommodations, to the extent possible, treatment for them should be no different than anyone else on the bus. For passengers feeling left behind, it’s important to address their future through a full range of buses with enhanced accessibility that allow their much-needed transparency, comfort and ease of mind. The only way to achieve this more respectable level of service is to quit building the same old buses the same old way, such as high-floor buses with conventional lifts that The market has a number of low-floor vehicles,​ranging from a low-floor transit bus like the ENC E-Z Rider afford little comfort. (pictured) for people with disabilities to a low-floor mini-van by REV’s ElDorado Mobility. First and foremost, the image of accessibility must resound positively driver of a coming stop. Typically, the pull-cord is out of reach for through “never-until-now” experiences. The question then becomes the passenger in a wheelchair. We are instead installing push buttons this: What must we do to improve our current products? flush-mounted in the wall within easy reach. REV Group, along with several other companies in the industry, In many respects, our industry has looked upon accessibility and offers accessible low-floor vehicles that range from low-floor minivan ADA mandates as almost a necessary evil. We don’t believe that at all. like the ElDorado Mobility Amerivan, for people with disabilities to a Looking to the future, REV Group is eyeing a pivot that will blend 40-foot low-floor transit bus like the Access built by ENC. accessibility with an easier experience. The industry needs improved A very robust Research and Development program is low-floor access that includes disabled passengers rather than sets them apart. driven, featuring ramps, more convenient securements and amenities Making it possible for everyone to board a bus at the same pace and design with for passengers with specific needs. It is also alt-fuel the same efficiency is the new mainstream, and the new protocol for driven, as accessibility is expensive. Operators must consider their doing business. total costs of operation in perspective. As an OEM, our job is to keep John Walsh serves as president of REV Bus, a division of REV Group. costs down as much as possible. Still, looking ahead, our focus is to move further away from the Visit for more information. commodity mode, and focus more on top-quality vehicles that enhance accessibility, and make transport easier for end-users and operators. | BUSRIDE


Approach low-floor in tiers Accessibility


By Ryan Lamb


hen paratransit operators’ interest and desire for lowfloor accessible transit runs high, and “would if only they could” work them into the fleet, they are often hesitant to make the investment strictly as a matter of price. It’s a lot to pay to essentially carry the same number of passengers, they reason, as the cost of the vehicle goes up exponentially for kneeling functionality and a ramp in the entry. In face of this, I think it’s important to explain why low-floor paratransit buses, when looked at from a tiered accessibility approach, don’t have as many barriers to entry as some operators might think. This aims to resolve the issues for why agencies feel unable to move toward improved paratransit accessibility for one reason or another; whether it is a matter of price, or one of durability of the features available. Building off the existing Champion bus low-floor platform, we have taken a new approach that incorporates unique combinations of low-floor and accessibility components at various price points. Given the “all or nothing” approach to accessible vehicles that has existed for years, these options in combination have not been available for agencies until now. While this approach does not start with the epitome of paratransit service, it is low-floor access nonetheless. With clear-cut choices for the operator, the accessibility of the vehicle only gets better as the price of the vehicle increases.

Entry-level low-floor accessibility The most basic combination is a converted low floor chassis with a one-step entry and a wheelchair lift in place of a more expensive wheelchair ramp. A low floor vehicle with a wheelchair lift only raises passengers 18 inches which, by comparison, is safer than lifting them up to the height of a high-floor paratransit bus. Champion Bus calls this model the LF Shuttle. Rather than an accessibility ramp at the entry door, the entry area has been leveled out into one wide step, 27 inches deep. Passengers using a walker can step onto the bus with greater stability, then step up into the lowered floor of the bus. 10


Shuttle to Transport When we then add an entry ramp to the low-floor converted chassis, the vehicle rises a bit in in price, but also in comfort and quality for passengers using mobility aids. At Champion, we call vehicles at this tier and above the LF Transport. Scaling up the LF Transport lowered floor paratransit bus with greater accessibility features, additional options include a kneeling suspension system, to decrease the entry step in height as well as the ramp angle for even greater accessibility. At Champion, a REV Group brand, we think it’s important to offer both a 96- or 102-inch wide bus body; the same as an intercity bus, on each of the lowered floor combinations available. For the passenger, the extra width essentially duplicates the standard transit bus experience with a spacious maneuverable interior. We see a lot of opportunities for this multi-level accessibility model in shuttle-type applications, such as parking lot and airport transportation companies, churches and retirement communities. The main idea is to appeal to those that have always shown interest in the low-floor concept, but have also remained conscious of its price tag. The intent of every agency when complying with ADA should be to make sure every passenger is viewed as “just another passenger.” Preserving a sense of dignity can be as simple as making it easier for someone to get on and off the bus. Working from this menu of accessibility options, we feel bus operators now stand a better chance of “getting in the game” and providing better paratransit service. Each combination of features brings an operator one step closer to totally-equal access in a market that appreciates anyone’s extra effort. Accessibility in increments may prove to be a way to scale the wall, instead of just standing hopelessly before it. Ryan Lamb serves as national director of sales for REV Bus Group. Visit for more information. Ryan Lamb serves as national director of sales for REV Bus Group. Visit for more information.

LF Transport Features

Champion Bus Production and Testing

Equal Access for All - Volume 2  

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