Daimler India is supporting its school bus customers to help them tide over the current crises.
Story by Deepti Thore

 


The school bus market in India is estimated to be 60000 units per annum and roughly accounts for 20 per cent of the global market. Against the backdrop of an estimated three-lakh schools in the country, the school bus market has been growing for the last couple of years because of the strong government push for regularisation and standardisation. Demand has been ranging from simple 10 or 15-seater elementary type of buses to low-floor, air-conditioned buses. Subject to the safety and security of children. School buses are governed by comprehensive safety guidelines and regulations, which include school bus design parameters, driver training and monitoring programmes and laws on student protection, all of which have made school buses the safest vehicles on road.
Look beyond school buses being the safest vehicles on roads, and the Covid induced lockdown put the brakes on school buses, starting June 2020. The new school season failing to take off, the segment has witnessed some unprecedented challenges that threaten to weaken its health and stability. Against such a backdrop, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) is currently working on various measures to support its school customers. These include extended warranty and financial solutions. Hoping that schools will soon re-open even though in a phased manner, the company is working with its school bus customers to ensure they are able to sustain and find other avenues of income. Contributing around 40-50 per cent of the total volume since its market launch in 2016, BharatBenz school buses are said to ensure that its operators earn good profit by the virtue of their lower TCO. Expressed Karl-Alexander Seidel, CEO and Head of Daimler Bus India, that the school bus transportation industry has been evolving in India.


Acknowledging that the respective industry is facing some unprecedented challenges due to the Covid pandemic, he mentioned that they have been working with their customers to help them sustain and tide over the challenges. Pointing out that they have been concentrating on ways to improve safety, Seidel averred that they have been leveraging technology to ensure that the BharatBenz school buses make a strong business case for its operators and a safer and dependable school transport means for the school children. “We have always pro-actively innovated to improve the performance of our school buses on all fronts,” he added. Of the opinion that schools will have to rethink the logistics of ferrying students safely to school and back home once they re-start, Seidel said that norms like social distancing and other health safety measures would push the demand for school buses.


Pro-actively deploying various safety measures in its school buses like the printing of ‘School Bus’ on the back and front of the vehicles, and the inclusion of a first-aid box and a fire extinguisher, DICV has been very particular about meeting the regulations as well as going beyond to ensure the safety and comfort of school children. Providing space for school bags in the hat rack, the company, according to Seidel, has meticulously designed its school buses with parabolic suspension system and integrated fine-tuned shock absorbers and anti-roll bars. “Every seat in a BharatBenz school bus is a cocoon of comfort, designed to give a comfortable ride to school and back home,” he stated. Explaining that their school buses are also fitted with ABS and child-friendly interiors that include fire-retardant plastics and fabrics, Seidel averred that the vehicles are also equipped with smoke detectors, fire alarm, stop switches and more.

 


Built on rigid chassis frames, which have the best-in-class seven-mm thickness integrated with alligator type cross members, according to Seidel, the BharatBenz school buses are equipped with factory supplied regulatory devices like AIS 140 and Reverse Park Alert Systems (RPAS). Offering a combination of engine brake, electronic exhaust brake and CAN-based electromagnetic retarder with five-stage operation, the BharatBenz school buses are designed to have a sturdy framework with high grade tubular structure. Having the best in industry rollover angle of 44 degrees and lower centre of gravity for enhanced safety, the school buses, said Seidel, have been fitted with anti-slip silicon embedded vinyl flooring and easily accessible emergency doors.

Recording 11 per cent rise in domestic sales and 56 per cent increase in exports, DICV, according to Seidel, has adopted a ‘Ride Unconditionally and enjoy the aliveness in you’ strategy. As a part of this strategy, the CV maker is thus offering buses with world-class comfort, highest safety standards and maximum stability. It is highlighting the fact that the same buses that it offers in the domestic market are also exported. “The FUSO-branded nine-tonne fully built school and staff buses are exported to the UAE market, in addition to the nine and 16-tonne bus chassis which are exported to markets like Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and SouthEast Asia,” said Seidel. He mentioned that their focus on innovation has got them many new customers. Well-equipped with advanced facilities and features like air-conditioning and on-board entertainment, the BharatBenz school buses, said Seidel, also possess high-quality engines and transmissions, and advanced aggregates such as air suspension.


Pointing at the BSVI technology and advanced telematics solution, ‘BusConnect’, Seidel stated that every new technology that they develop have the operator and the end-user at the core of it. Seidel mentioned that ‘Proserv’, for example, is an interface that enables our customers to connect with us via an app for a problem they face regarding the vehicle. “This app. enables the customers to carry out more than 60 transactions on their smartphones,” he added. Stressing on having over 190 service touchpoints across the country, Seidel said that the ‘Bus Care’ program DICV started in July 2020 is designed to help its customers to re-start their operations. It includes a free service campaign with driver training on COVID-19 preventive measures and entails the distribution of personal hygiene kits, thermometers and disinfectant sprayers. “The program has already been executed for over 1400 buses and 1900 drivers in 75 locations,” he added.


Of the opinion that initiatives like ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ have given a strong push to the automotive and the auto component industry to reduce dependence on imports, Seidel said that his company, from the very inception, has been having a strong impetus on localisation. Stating that it would take a long time to develop local manufacturing processes that tackle challenges like cost, quality and capacity, DICV, he averred, has cultivated around 400 suppliers in India and achieved a localisation level of 80-90 per cent with the aim to increase it further in a phased manner. Stating that they are advocating a well-formulated scrappage policy that takes a long-term view on sustainability, Seidel explained that there are approximately 28 million vehicles that are over 10 year’s old running on Indian roads, causing an excess of pollution. “Pollution will continue to increase at an unacceptable rate until older vehicles are taken off the road,” he opined.

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