The largest municipalities in the country frequently call on NEBR to outsource their collision repair, remanufacturing or refurbishment needs when the extent of the damage or work scope exceeds the capabilities of their facility. Operators need to be mindful and avoid undertaking a repair that might exceed their area of expertise and not attempt to perform the repair without the proper training and tooling. Repairs requiring paint work should be performed by a certified paint technician in a facility that meets required safety and environmental standards. It is also recommended that all structural work be performed in a manufacturer certified shop as this will guarantee that all repairs will meet or exceed OEM standards. This will ensure that the standard manufacturer warranty of 12 years will not be impacted by the repair and will remain intact. Too often we see warranties voided by in house repairs made by operators that are not up to OEM standards.
Performing in-house repairs requires manpower and dedicated space for the repairs to be performed as the repair process is much more involved than the day-to-day maintenance of the equipment. Depending on the extent of the repairs, equipment can sometimes be out of service for several months – occupying valuable shop space and tying up experienced technicians by taking them away from their day-to-day activity. Quality assurance/safety is also a concern with heavy collision repair as multiple systems can be compromised, requiring technicians with specific skill sets to address repairs in these areas. By utilizing technicians certified in their respective skills we can ensure that all repairs will be made to OEM standards and will guarantee that the warranty of the bus will not be affected.
When determining to replace a damaged vehicle. an operator should ensure that whoever is evaluating the vehicle has the knowledge and training to make this decision. Buses of today are designed with passenger safety in mind. When structural integrity is compromised, a comprehensive inspection of electrical components, interior components, and the chassis is necessary. The initial visual inspection of a bus involved in an accident often does not reflect the full scope of the damage. As the bus is dismantled, the true extent of the damage is then revealed.
In many instances, accident damage will extend to electrical control modules and harnesses that are deemed unrepairable and thus driving up the cost of the repair.
If chassis damage is found, this can often require the removal of additional interior and exterior components beyond the damaged area in order to properly perform the repair to OEM standards. Chassis components can be costly and come with lengthy lead times, potentially downing a vehicle for an extended period. The chassis is the foundation on which the vehicle is built, and repairs need to be precise to ensure proper alignment of all subcomponents. Repairs of this nature should only be undertaken by shops with extensive experience and expertise in this area to mitigate missteps that can drive up the cost considerably. After these factors have been considered we may discover that the cost of the repair will exceed the replacement value of the vehicle. An experienced collision repair facility such as NEBR would also work hand in hand with an insurance adjuster (where applicable) to determine the most cost-effective solution.
Throughout our 25 years of providing bus collision and overhaul services, NEBR has been at the forefront of advancements in propulsion technology. NEBR has worked hand in hand with BAE since the inception of BAE’s first generation of hybrid buses in 2003. As an Authorized BAE Dealer, we have seen first-hand the advancement and improvement of hybrid, electric, and battery technology and the benefits experienced by operators that incorporate these advancements into their refurbishment programs. With innovations in technology achieved by BAE, component reliability continues to improve minimizing any downtime due to failure. NEBR is also an authorized warranty and service provider for Proterra with technicians trained in the complexities of electric vehicles. This dedication to training allows NEBR to act as a “one stop shop” for collision repairs as there is never a need to outsource any area of the bus, greatly reducing downtime to the operator.
Completing a mid-life overhaul at the six-year mark allows operators to take advantage of extended warranties, allowing them to set appropriate maintenance budgets while minimizing future downtime. Beyond the advantage of cost savings, operators can extend the life of their vehicles by more than 50 percent, leveraging their asset for upwards of 12 years.
Ultimately, preventative maintenance is paramount. Through our years of experience with diesel and alternative fuel buses, we have developed a very strict preventive maintenance program. This program, which exceeds manufacturers’ recommendations, contributes to components performing well beyond their expected life. The NEBR Preventative Maintenance Plan has proven to keep buses running in peak condition in the harshest of operating environments with the most demanding of use schedules.
Kevin Kaminskey is CEO of NEBR (Northeastern Bus Rebuilders). NEBR is nationally recognized as a leader in transit bus maintenance, specializing in mid-life overhauls and alternative fuel systems as an authorized factory representative for the major bus manufacturers. Visit www.nebr.us for more information.