Thomas School Bus Manufacturing Tour

imported_John Whelan - March 20, 2014

Witnessing The Manufacturing Of Thomas School Buses

Thomas school buses are built stronger than any other vehicle on the road with extremely high standards set by the FMVSS (federal motor vehicle safety standards). I found this excellent video covering the manufacturing process.

I had the privilege of going down to the Highpoint North Carolina factory for a tour and training. They have 2 manufacturing plants one is for the pusher buses which is the older manufacturing plant. The pushers were being assembled using a lot of hands on procedures. Riveting body panels is done manually along with all the other assembly procedures.

New Technology in the C2 Plant

The C2 plant is much different using robotics to glue body panels and paint the entire structure. To watch robots do all these tasks with so much precision is amazing. They apply the exact amount of glue and paint to each structure saving a ton of time with very little waste. It was my first assembly line tour and it was quite an experience to see the buses we work on everyday being assembled from square one.

An Exclusive Patented System Hold Buses Together

We were allowed to take pictures in the older plant but not in the C2 plant for obvious reasons. Thomas has a patented method assembling the body panels and using the super glue to hold them on to the frame. There is a demo they have that consists of a hydraulic controlled device that grabs on to each end of a body panel that has been glued in the middle.

Amazing Strength Beyond Expectations

The hydraulic force is so great it ripped the panel apart and the glued section stayed intact. I forget how many thousands of pounds per square inch it took to do this but it was proof that this special glue is going to keep the buses together through any kind of abuse or trauma.

There were four of us from the shop that went on this trip which included one week of technical training. The power point presentations in the classroom covered electrical, air brakes, hydraulics and how to troubleshoot these systems including the multiplexing part that the C2 conventional buses come equipped with.

On Site Factory Training Is Well Worth It

There were also practical training sessions using the “Service Link” software that links to the C2 buses and sees inside the circuitry and control modules. This is an invaluable tool that saves time searching for a needle in a haystack electrical fault. Technology is moving at an incredible pace so Techs must keep up with changes in the industry they are involved with.

The Nascar Experience and Deep Fried Pickles

It was a memorable experience going way down south into the states and we had time to watch a race at the Lowes Nascar track in Charlotte. I believe the track has a new name but at the time when we went down that was the name I remember. If you live in Canada and go down south into the states you've got to try the deep fried pickles which is available in any restaurant.....delicious! And tangy :)

I can seriously assure you that Thomas School buses are tough as nails and extremely safe. After seeing how they are assembled and tested to rigorous standards I can see why Thomas is such a popular brand. Take care and thanks for reading my post. Join up with us here at Mechanics Hub and see what we're chatting about in the forum!