Gentex BusTop ends fiddling on the roof

General Steel offers a solution to service hybrid bus batteries

The Gentex BusTop at the Chicago Transit Authority maintenance center surrounds one of many city buses and gives easy access to roof-mounted components.

The advent of hybrid propulsion has turned bus roofs into battery storage compartments — and created an entire new workplace for transit bus maintenance technicians. Sometimes nothing solves a high-tech problem better than a low-tech solution.

No one knows this better than Steve Meltz, president of General Steel Products, Everett, MA, a family-owned company making heavy-duty steel scaffolding and fall protection equipment for over 63 years.

To service rooftop components technicians typically must climb around overhead wearing an uncomfortable body harness tethered to an awkward boom system. This past year a more sensible assembly started showing up at the trade shows. What works in this day and age is the Gentex BusTop.

“This expanded scaffolding makes it much easier and safer to make repairs located on the rooftop of a bus,” says Meltz. “Workers have told us that besides feeling like a dangling puppet, those harnesses also produce an undue level of anxiety. Using the BusTop, they are no longer restricted in their normal movement, and more than two people can work on the rooftop at the same time.”

Meltz says the Gentex BusTop makes workers more comfortable, more mobile and more efficient. The rooftop components are more readily accessible with a convenient stairway that provides a freer easier workspace. He says safety guardrails are also available on the BusTop scaffold to further promote worker safety.

This use of a scaffold is actually the brainchild of Dennis Cristafaro, head of maintenance training for Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago, IL. His gears started turning a year ago when he came across a photo of a General Steel scaffolding solution wrapped around a Lockheed-Martin satellite assembly site.

“I saw this and had an idea that General Steel could easily devise a similar structure for workers on the growing number of hybrid buses.” he says. “I contacted them and they went to work.”

While Chicago Transit continues to test and evaluate, the Maryland Transit Authority has jumped all over the idea and ordered six units that are already in use in Baltimore.

Meltz says LA Metro, Los Angeles, CA, is seriously considering the Gentex BusTop, and that he has had inquiries from 15 other major transit agencies throughout the U.S.  BR