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Hello and looking for input


kjurkic
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Hello all

I know I am lacking in etiquette for just jumping right in, and hope folks will accept my apology up front.

I have been performing research into purchasing a highway coach for our organization. The greatest difficulty has been finding units available for sale in Canada. In the US, there are a few wholesalers/brokers who are well organized, but there is a definite lack of such a service in Canada.

We first investigated charter services but cannot get a commitment to our turn-over schedule, and that is why we are seeking to add a large bus to our fleet.

My employer is located on Vancouver Island, and there is 80km of gravel road to reach our facility. From direct conversation with folks responsible for private fleets, I have directed our focus on MCI or Prevost due to service and parts availability in our region, as well as dependability in operation in rougher environments.

I am posting here in the hope that someone can provide information on used bus vendors or brokers in western Canada, or has experience they would be willing to share regarding operating and maintaining large buses. Would also appreciate any links or contacts for buses presently for sale (I already monitor craigslist, kijiji, usedeverywhere.com, etc)

Thanks in advance

I can be reached directly using bmsadmin (- at_) bms.bc.ca

regards

Ken

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Are you looking at new or used? How many passengers?

With some hunting, you might find some school bus bodied units with a/c and coach seating, air suspension etc. ex department of national defense buses, for example.

Given that your employer will be running off "highway" as it were, they may be better suited.

Parts for them can be obtained at just about any truck dealer.

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Hi

We are looking for used; we anticipate no more than 10-15,000km use per year. Our budget for this is set at $40,000 max for acquisition, and first year operating expenses

We are not excluding a used school bus, or perhaps a shuttle-style, but as this vehicle is also intended to be part of a marketing effort to attract corporate customers to our facility, we are favoring a large coach which we will down-size to 24 passenger, and use the extra room for field equipment and possibly camping gear.

The 24 count is due to modularity; we have 2 marine vessels rated for 12 passengers each, and our class sizes are also set at 24. I have also been able to establish that ICBC allows class 4 with air endorsement to operate a coach, as long as the seating capacity has been reduced. I know it is a big step up from a shuttle-style to highway coach, but we already have a staff pool of mature, experienced drivers with class 4. Having to get a few people to upgrade to a class 2 would break the budget. As well, we rarely would have use for more than 24 seats, but do have a lot of use for the extra carrying capacity (ie adding freight pickup for our kitchen & housekeeping departments)

Thanks again for your input; I am flying solo on this project and want to ensure we don't end up with a white-elephant.

regards

Ken

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When you say camping gear, obviously you mean what will fit into the average luggage bay.

In that case, as a technician, my preferance would land with a Prevost h341 or 45, based largely on the fact that more parts relate to the electrical system can be sourced through local truck dealers, versus mci itself ( relays etc)

In both buses, the Detroit series 60 is the mainstay, and you'd do well to stay with that. Any truck dealer you meet will have serviced them before. They're about as bulletproof as you can get. Allison b500s are the default transmission that you will likely have to choose from, and for your local truck dealer they may be unusual, but they are quite reliable when services properly.

If you can find a coach, regardless of make, be it mci or Prevost with a series 60 and a roadranger stickshift, by all means go for it, because that's what the dealers will be familiar with. Provided you can drive stick ( remember old school... Double clutching etc)

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Might i suggest a 24 passenger shuttle and maybe a little trailer for storage? It'd still be under class 4. If you strip down a coach thats made for a class 2 driver and strip it to make it a class 4, i wouldn't think that driver would all of a sudden know to drive a full bus made from a class 2-4. Kinda think thats unsafe. Your class 4 driver might not know how to handle a class 2 size vehicle, that driver would still need training for that vehicle, and also consider your cost. If you blew an alternator on a shuttle, its a quicker and much cheaper fix than that on a prevost or MCI. You could spend less money on fuel and maintanence if you just have a shuttle than a full coach. Hope this helps!

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Bus_medic: Thanks for the mechanical advice, I had discovered the 60 series seems to be the best choice - I was told the older pre-computer(?) versions are cheaper to get serviced, but there is a fuel-mileage trade-off. However, I couldn't find much info on the best transmission option. There is a Prevost certified service location in Nanaimo, which is our primary client pick-up location. I have actually driven large trucks with 15-speeds, as well as old-skoolin' deck trucks with split axles; what fun it was to blow the shift on an uphill, and have to halt to start over, grinding along in 1st gear until reaching the top....but an auto will be the default choice.

Translink Fan: We are not against a shuttle, but by the time you add in the lavatory and large luggage space, you are getting into a chassis that is almost as large as a coach (ie F550, F650). Also in my searching, I have mostly found that a 24 passenger shuttle in good condition, that checks enough boxes, would cost about double what a coach that fills the same need would cost. The saving in operational costs would be minimal in our low-mileage operation; Our current E-350 is running at close to $.75/km in running expenses, and a local fleet operator* I chatted with said to expect about $1-$1.10/km running expenses for a coach (not including amortization, finance charges, insurance, etc, just fuel & wear). This is supported by a Transport Canada study on heavy vehicle operating expenses I discovered. We have investigated the trailer option, but folks who live out this way and tow trailers seasonally (out in spring, home in fall) and logging truck drivers I have talked to, recommend against that; trailers get shaken to pieces, and since trailers only have a very rudimentary suspension, the items inside often do not fare well.

As for the drivers experience and training, we are primarily operating in a rural/highway environment rather than an urban one, so the drivers will have the opportunity to gain a lot of seat time before we stretch our service to larger urban centres. Our driver staff are all over 30 and all have had experience operating mid-size trucks and/or cube vans, so it is a step up, but not a huge one. Having said that, we may still opt to get a few staff up to a class 2 license, since we are hoping this project will lead to client expansion.

We are looking at a couple of Thomas coach bus, which are about 3/4 of a hwy coach size, and fit our requirements (one for sure has hydraulic, rather than air brakes so that's good). I have not heard either good or bad about parts and service on those for our area. I do know that one unit I will be looking at in person soon has a Cummins/Allison combo, but lacks basement storage.

* I have communicated with several charter operations who are familiar with this route; they will not operate anything on this road that does not have air-suspension on a robust chassis. 1 said he would not operate anything BUT a coach on this road.

Once again, I wish to thank everyone for the input. Every item raised here is important and makes me review the pros and cons and I have already amended several items of my proposal.

best regards

Ken

PS, this is who "we" are: www.bms.bc.ca

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Quick follow-on: I have been informed of a Bluebird Q'bus that looks like a good fit, but I am concerned about parts/service. Bluebird has closed a lot of plants and re-focused on the traditional school bus market, so where does that left the "orphaned" models?

regards

Ken

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Just about everything but the body panels and fibreglass bits are common to the school bus models, and are pretty generic and easy to obtain as most truck dealers. Shouldn't be a problem. About the only thing that might have to be sourced further afield might be a/c condensers and evaporators and their fans, should you ever need one.

Even the a/c compressors are often ones used in semi truck cabs, only in tandem.

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I'm not convinced a true highway coach with reduced seating is a class 4. Licence classes are set by GVW, not passenger counts first and foremost. A highway coach wiuld still be a class 2, even with only 1 passenger. I would speak with a CVSE officer at a scale as well as get this claim from iCBC in writing before proceeding any further with this thought.

Any washboard type road is murder to classic style metal-spring suspensions. For long-term durability and reduced costs, air-suspension should be the only option if you end up with a larger coach-style vehicle.

For smaller groups, a used full.size van with a trailer would honestly be the best overall option for drivers, ease of maintaince and low startup costs.

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I did a lot of homework before posting here. I have heard that CVSE can be a bit inconsistent in interpreting regulations, but also that the regulations leave unanswered questions. It sure would be nice if CVSE and ICBC played from the same rule-book.

I contacted CVSE first, they told me I had to talk to ICBC - if ICBC was OK with a change in registered seating capacity, it is supposedly OK with CVSE.

At ICBC it wasn't some service desk clerk I talked to, but a manager. I could not find any documentation about GVW and license class. I will be getting that in writing before we commit to a purchase.

I contacted a conversion specialist, and the fellow I talked to offered that CVSE would go after any changes to seating mounts or type (ie the limo party buses with sofas & tables)but not a reduction in seats. Technically ANY variation beyond reducing the number of seats (ie adding cargo racks, change room, kitchenette) that is not a factory option could be a no-no. Also we operate as a private fleet, as opposed to scheduled service or charter - this was a question that ICBC clarified, we cannot sell any seats to 3rd parties or the general public.

I am still hoping to find one that already has the appropriate capacity. The BB I mentioned already has 24 pass/big cargo/lav/air suspension, but its all the way in Ontario. Any tips on getting a bus delivered to BC?

Thanks

Ken

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I'm not convinced a true highway coach with reduced seating is a class 4. Licence classes are set by GVW, not passenger counts first and foremost. A highway coach wiuld still be a class 2, even with only 1 passenger. I would speak with a CVSE officer at a scale as well as get this claim from iCBC in writing before proceeding any further with this thought.

According to ICBC http://www.icbc.com/driver-licensing/getting-licensed/types-licences

Class 4 driver's licence (unrestricted)

Buses with a maximum seating capacity of 25 persons (including the driver), including school buses, special activity buses and special vehicles used to transport people with disabilities

Taxis and limousines

Ambulances

Any motor vehicle or combination of vehicles in Class 5.

So my understanding is if the highway coach (Bus) only has 25 or less seats (Including the driver) a class 4 licence should be suffice. However I do agree its best to get a second openion from a Offical of ICBC

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Welcome to the board Ken!

One dealer I can think of is Western Canada IC Bus. I don't know how much help they would be with Blue Birds (though the Edmonton location has a ton of them), but they have a number of BC locations: http://wcicb.com/Loc...61/Default.aspx

As IC Bus is relatively "new", a commercial coach may not be found for under $40,000. But some of their models are available with air suspension.

I think there are many charter companies that have service departments too. (Charter Bus Lines of BC might be worth contacting)

The Prevost H3- series coaches have the largest luggage bay capacity. I would also suggest checking the manufacturers directly for any deals on used coaches. For example:

https://www.prevostc...ed-seated-coach

http://sales.mcicoac...anding?openform

Currently on the MCI site, under $35,000 US there are 102A3, 102D3, 102DL3 models, and a 1998 Thomas. They are located in the USA though so I am not sure if any modifications would need to be made, and delivery may be an issue. You may have to fly someone down to pick up the coach or something like that. I don't think they deliver for pre-owned coaches. Doesn't hurt to call their toll free number to inquire though!

For comfort and durability I think MCI and Prevost would beat Blue Bird.

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In our fleet we have a VanTare Prevost H345 "Limo" bus that is 18pax+ driver and it is a Class 2 vehicle. There is no doubt.

From what I can gather, you are a commercial enterprise (not a private individual) and from my past experiences with ICBC you would be classed as a Class 2 as the vehicle does not fall into the Class 5 weight class to be a Class 4 (a taxi or police car is just a converted class 5 vehicle, for clarification).

A strange gray area is a Class 2 vehicle when empty (only a driver) can be operated by someone with a Class 3, because it is the same weight class but not, at the time, carrying passengers.

Unless you are doing high miles week after week, I will bet that 2 vans and 2 trailers will give you more flexibility and cost less in the long term.

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Thanks to everyone; all is grist for the mill.

CBL-H345 Driver - the Limo bus that you operate, does it has customized seating layout (ie seats facing each other over table or other non-factory setups?) Just curious, as the conversion specialist had noted this could cause issue with CVSE if we acquired a unit that had such modifications

A Wong - thanks for the lead. I have sent WCIC bus a message with our requirements, and maybe they can help.

FWIW I also contacted Dynamic Specialties in BC, but their salesman immediately went into "flog the new stuff" mode.

Happy Family day everybody

Ken

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