• A New Age of Enforcement: Adjusting to Remote and Offsite Investigations & How to Prepare By:

    Presented as part of ABA’s BISC & BusMARC 2021 Virtual Safety & Maintenance Series The American Bus Association’s Bus Industry Safety Council (BISC) and Bus Maintenance Repair Council’s (BusMARC) 2021 Virtual Safety & Maintenance Series offered a sequence of educational webinars early this year, covering a variety of industry-related topics. As part of its ongoing webinar series, the ABA hosted a virtual meeting with presenters Catterson Oh and Danielle Smith, transportation specialists with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance Division. Oh and Smith focused on COVID-19 national emergency investigative process updates including changes to the FMCSA investigative procedures due to COVID-19, recordkeeping and documentation as the result of COVID-19, and providing accurate documentation for FMCSA investigations. Changes to Investigative Procedures as a Result of the COVID-19 Health Emergency In May 2020, the FMCSA released guidance allowing investigators to conduct remote onsite investigations. These remote onsite investigations are intended to follow the same general process as offsite investigations with the exception that most of the investigation is now completed remotely. According to Oh, May 2020 resulted in a significant expansion to the FMCSA’s remote functionality. While motorcoach operators may not have seen any investigations in the last year, Oh noted that due to this expanded functionality, companies should expect a considerable increase in the number of investigations moving forward. “In terms of the offsite investigations with this pandemic, the policy with this particular type of investigation has not changed,” Oh said. “The offsite investigation will still be recommended for carriers that meet the appropriate criteria for this population of carriers.” Although carriers will not receive a rating from an offsite investigation, offsite investigations may be converted to onsite remote investigations under certain circumstances. Carriers with investigations that are converted onsite may be issued a Safety Fitness Rating. Overview of Investigation Process   Safety Investigator (SI) will conduct an initial phone call with the carrier to introduce themselves, and review the reason for the investigation and next steps.  2. SI will email the carrier an Initial Contact Letter that will go over initial documents being requested.  3. Carrier will upload the initial documents to the Safety Measurement System (SMS).  4. After SI receives the initial documents, they may request additional documents via a Document Request Letter.  5. SI may contact the carrier via phone and email throughout the investigation.  6. Once SI has completed the investigation, they will request a closeout meeting with the carrier, which can be done via phone, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or other platform.  7. Carrier may receive a Safety Rating upon completion of the Remote Onsite Investigation. According to Oh, carriers subject to investigation will receive a phone call, followed by an initial contact letter, from an FMSCA Safety Investigator (SI) introducing themselves, the reason for investigation and next steps. Once a carrier has received this letter, that carrier’s information will need to be uploaded into the FMCSA Safety Measurement System (SMS). After receiving the initial documents, an SI will review the content to determine if additional documentation is required. If additional documentation is needed the SI will issue a “document request letter.” “This is where things start kind of diverting from the normal way of doing things,” Oh explained. “Especially when you have performed onsite investigations.” An SI will start contacting the carrier via phone and e-mail throughout the investigation. In a normal onsite investigation, the SI would be with the carrier in person to answer questions and provide additional guidance.  Once the SI has completed their investigation, they will request a close out meeting with the carrier. This can be done over the phone or, more likely, in a video conferencing setting. At this point, the carrier may receive a safety rating upon completion of the remote onsite investigation.  Once the SMS has processed the information, the carrier will be able to access their dashboard, track investigation progress, check due dates and required documents, view call-to-action reminders, upload documentation, and learn to use data to increase safety performance. After the SI has reviewed all of the required documents, they will send the carrier a request for a meeting to close out the investigation. Typically, this is done onsite, face-to-face however, since the onset of the pandemic, closeouts are now performed virtually. Reinstatement After Voluntary Revocation of Operating Authority In March 2020, the FMCSA issued multiple exemptions in response to the national health emergency. One of those exemptions included waiving the $80 reinstatement fee for carriers who opted to voluntarily revoke their Passenger Operating Authority.  Carriers with a USDOT pin can login into their profile, update their registration information, and complete an MCSA-5889 form, a Motor Carrier Records Change.  Carriers without a USDOT pin, can register and request a pin number through the FMCSA website. Before submitting a request, carriers will need to file a BOC-3 (Designation of Process Agent), confirm insurance filings are up to date, and make sure that their USDOT number is reinstated and activated. Once these items are completed, the reinstatement request is going to be put on hold until the carrier has everything submitted properly. “If all is submitted and you do have to pay that fee, then you’ll get it reinstated no later than the fourth business day after the payment is processed,” Smith explained. “You can request that the fee is waived, you’re just going to submit it through EMC’s e-mail address rather than doing it through the normal process online.”  FMCSA Ratings The FMCSA issues three types of ratings. Satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory. Satisfactory means that there are safety systems in place and they all appear to be working. Conditional means that there are safety systems in place, but there are breakdowns within some of those systems. While carriers are still able to operate with a conditional rating, some choose not to do so and would rather upgrade their score. Unsatisfactory ratings mean a carrier is considered unfit and are not allowed to operate after that time.  “All of the critical violations are listed within the Read More >

  • UMA EXPO 2023 Round-Up By:

    Here are some of the top stories coming out of the 2023 United Motorcoach Association’s (UMA) Motorcoach EXPO, held January 11 – 14 in Orlando, Florida: All-New Prevost H3-45 Takes Center Stage  All eyes were on Prevost on Thursday as the company introduced its all-new, next-generation H3-45 during the 2023 UMA EXPO in Orlando, Florida. The redesigned H3-45 features a series of engineering advances that deliver improved fuel efficiency, an enhanced driver experience and ultimate comfort for passengers. “The H3-45 is our flagship and has for the past two decades set the standard in the industry,” said Prevost President François Tremblay. “We’ve re-engineered all aspects of the coach to create a best-in-class vehicle that is an obvious standout. The interior, which has been completely redesigned, was inspired by the automobile and aerospace industries. Everything we executed on the H3-45 we did with the user experience in mind.”  The H3-45 made its public debut at the UMA Motorcoach EXPO on Thursday, Jan. 12, as part of a yearlong introduction of the updated coach. The unveiling took on a dramatic flair, including a light show and a fog machine.  “2023 is an exciting time for Prevost,” said Commercial Operations Vice President Kevin Dawson. “The all-new H3-45 couples the quality, reliability and serviceability that have been hallmarks of Prevost for nearly 100 years with advanced engineering innovations that have been implemented with the customer in mind.” ABC Features Custom Upfit Ford E-Transit Sunset Van   ABC Companies a leading provider of motorcoach, transit and specialty passenger transport equipment and industry leader in electric mobility solutions in the USA and Canada, unveiled another new edition to its EV product lineup at UMA EXPO 2023. The 2022 Sunset Van Ford E-Transit High Roof model was on display at Booth #1601. This cutting-edge EV option reflects ABC’s focus on offering a diverse range of choices to help operators stretch their fleet utilization.  “The Ford E-Transit Sunset Van offers an excellent gateway vehicle for owners who want to begin adding EV options to their fleets, with minimum investment in charging infrastructure, technician and driver training,” said Roman Cornell, president and CCO, ABC Companies. As they consider and determine their long-term fleet power approach, this uniquely versatile vehicle can help operators to reimagine and expand service to markets ranging from executive shuttles to senior-living transport. With zero-emissions, best-in-class features and ADA accessibility, the custom upfit by Sunset Vans also meets the needs for service routes that prohibit engine idling. This vehicle can also address the growing demand for operators who provide environmentally friendly transport options. Built on a fully integrated OEM produced chassis and EV drive system, the Ford E-Transit brings all the benefits of clean electric power. Offering smart curb appeal, safety features, along with thoughtful passenger, and driver comforts. ABC utilizes industry leading manufacturers like Ford and innovative upfitters such as Sunset Vans to bring cutting edge EV options to customers. The economical, zero emissions 2022 Sunset Van Ford E-Transit High Roof Extended Length model adds to an expansive portfolio of options ABC offers for right sizing vehicles to customer requests and needs.  ABC proudly offers electric and internal combustion powered options from a number of quality manufacturers ranging from basic shuttle vans built on the Ram ProMaster and Ford Transit chassis up to Turtle Top Executive editions based on the Freightliner and Ford F-600 chassis for a truly premium transportation experience. With a Proud 90-Year Heritage, MCI Rolls Out a Bright, Bold Future Motor Coach Industries (MCI), a subsidiary of NFI Group Inc. (NFI), and North America’s motorcoach leader backed by reliable in-field technical expertise, 24/7 roadside assistance, and parts support, announced its 90th anniversary of leading the motorcoach industry in North America and providing a reliability-driven service to its customers. At the UMA Motorcoach EXPO 2023, MCI demonstrated the latest innovations in luxury motorcoach amenities and announced the expansion of its service center network. MCI displayed its newest clean-diesel J4500, the industry’s best-selling motorcoach. With top-tier amenities for passengers and the latest safeguards for coach operators and the environment, the J4500 features: MCI enters 2023 eager to reach lofty new milestones after finishing 2022 on a high note by delivering its 10,000th J4500 coach, powered by clean-diesel technology, and its first battery electric J4500 CHARGE™.  This forward-thinking strategy also applies to the MCI service network. After opening its San Francisco Bay Area service center in 2017, MCI sees the need for further expansion on the West Coast. As a result, MCI’s Southern California location is moving into its new, more convenient location in Los Angeles, which plans to be open in March. Also underway is plans for a service center facility in Seattle, Washington, expected to open later in 2023. NFI Parts™, North America’s most comprehensive organization providing parts, technical publications, training, and support for buses and motorcoaches, continues to bring value to the private coach market. Many recently introduced new products, alternate parts programs, and growing competitive cross reference catalogs focus on reducing operator costs and increasing coach uptime. In 2022, NFI Parts worked hard to increase inventory availability and updated the popular MCI Critical Parts Lists by coach model. Originally launched in 2012, the Critical Parts Lists identify key parts deemed essential to coach uptime and for customers to consider stocking in their own shop. The list, compiled with the input of MCI operators and in-house technical experts, includes all the high-wear parts by part number and quantity per coach for quick reference and maintenance support. TEMSA Announces In-House Financial Services “TEMSA Financial Services” TEMSA announced TEMSA Financial Services, a new and more affordable way to acquire its highly innovative and comfortable motorcoaches. TEMSA Financial Services is the result of a collaboration between TEMSA, the company that sets the standard in innovative and sustainable mobility and Auxilior Capital Partners, North America’s fastest growing sales catalyst, finance company. TEMSA Financial Services offers customers affordable acquisition methods for its full line of motorcoaches with fast, frictionless service. TEMSA Financial Services enables clients to Read More >

  • Top 3 Considerations When Electrifying Your Fleet By:

    To effectively combat climate change, we need to reduce carbon emissions from transportation. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the transportation sector relies more heavily on fossil fuels today than virtually any other segment of the economy and accounts for the largest share (37 percent) of energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S. Hence, one of the ‘low-hanging fruits’ in global efforts to combat climate change is the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). One of the more attractive sub-segments to encourage a modal shift to lower carbon transport is public transit, through electric buses. This is supported by many state governments which have mandated carbon reductions in public transit, while also offering financial incentives to make this shift. Recent legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act, which became law on August 16, 2022, will likely help to accelerate this transition. Meanwhile, shifting all of the buses operated by the estimated 6,800 public transit organizations and authorities in the U.S. to EV operations will be a massive and complicated undertaking. It will likely require new charging infrastructure, modernization of the country’s electrical grids, and digital technology to balance energy supply and demand. Let’s consider each of these. (1) EV-olving supporting infrastructure Many bus depots today may not have access to the large volumes of electricity needed to charge dozens or hundreds of vehicles, particularly during periods of peak power consumption. These facilities also tend to be in commercial areas where they may be competing with their neighbors for a limited energy supply.  As a result, transit agencies and fleet operators need to work closely with local power utilities to make sure their electricity needs can be met as they expand their EV fleets. This could require the installation of additional circuits or feeder lines on the local distribution grid, or re-locating  facilities to areas with more robust energy supplies. Also, installing stand-alone charging pedestals for each parking spot in a very space-constrained terminal may not be a practical option. A more centralized, modular, space-optimized system that can provide charging support for large number of vehicles simultaneously could be more viable and affordable.  (2) Powering electric fleets On average, electric buses require between 1.35 and 2kWh for each km driven (or 2.17 to 3.22 kWh per mile). Depending on the size of fleet, this could place significant demand on power grids. Consequential upgrades and modernization could be required to meet this need. One possible option that fleet operators can explore is the development of a renewable energy generation system to provide power locally. Such a system would typically be coupled with a scalable microgrid and battery energy storage solution designed to ensure reliable power availability, grid stability and the highest possible penetration of renewable energy. Together with an intelligent control system for both grid-connected and off-grid systems, this approach can help transit agencies and fleet operators meet their power needs while scaling up their fleet. (3) Managing complexity Transitioning to an electric fleet and its associated infrastructure requires careful planning and forethought. To successfully introduce large numbers of EV buses into their operations, fleet managers need to be considering their end-goals today. How many megawatts are needed to charge the fleet? How much power is required during peak hours? Is there any flexibility in terms of when vehicles need to be charged? Which routes should be converted to EV operations first? To address these questions, fleet operators need to embrace digital technologies. The use of more sophisticated energy management systems can help operators manage fleet charging needs, orchestrate energy supply and demand, and optimize operations. In other instances, it could help smooth out the peaks and valleys of the daily power supply.  Looking Toward an Electrified Future A modal shift to electric transit is already underway and the benefits are obvious – it will reduce carbon footprint, lower costs, and cut harmful emissions, making neighborhoods healthier and cleaner. To be successful, however, fleet operators need to be prepared to scale up quickly. They need to consider their future energy needs when developing their charging infrastructure and align these systems with their existing operational platforms and practices. Finding the right industry partners that have experience navigating these kinds of complex transitions will be invaluable. Together, we will jointly benefit from low-carbon mobility and the journey toward a more sustainable future. Daniel Simounet is VP of Transportation Industry, North America, Hitachi Energy. Contact him at Visit for more information.