The new vehicle from Prevost passes muster on the Arrow Stage Lines training route
Earlier this year, Prevost delivered a 2015 model H3-45 to Phoenix, AZ, for an Official BUSRide Road Test. While the noticeable differences from previous year models are few, new technology to advance driving safety as well as heightened operating efficiency were noteable.
By David Hubbard
BUSRide engaged Arrow Stage Lines, Omaha, NB, to conduct the test drive and offer comment from its Phoenix facilities. Safety and Training Coordinator Mark Ashcraft volunteered to do the driving.
Ashcraft started in bus transportation as a young man driving parishioners in the church bus. Following his time in the ministry, he moved to Kansas where his children were attending school and subsequently went to work driving motorcoaches for Heartland Trailways. He later moved to Arrow Stage Lines in Topeka, KS, and served as operations manager before his recent transition to the Phoenix location.
As it turned out, Ashcraft has always been a fan of
“I have always felt an affinity with Prevost coaches, seeing them as a standard of excellence,” he says. “When I drove for Great Southern Coaches, Jonesboro, AR, the company had one Prevost H3-45 in its fleet. New drivers were always relegated to the older equipment. I waited my turn and gradually worked up to my chance at the wheel. When any of us drove the H3-45, we were on top of the world.”
Ashcraft says he drove that particular Prevost in the relief effort and evacuation of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Though it was an older model, I always enjoyed taking it on trips, simply because of the smooth ride and comfort,” he says. “Even with the mileage in excess of 400,000 miles, the durability was amazing.”
For the test drive in Phoenix, Ashcraft chose his typical training route for new Arrow Stage drivers. The first leg ambled through downtown Phoenix on the busy narrow city streets near the sports arenas.
“Narrow streets are always a good test for nervous candidates making tight turns while watching for traffic and pedestrians,” he says. “This is the perfect situation for me to test this new Prevost Coach.”
Aschraft says he has driven 1995 to 2013 model Prevosts, and was anxious to compare them to the newest iteration.
“As I have driven consecutive year models, I have been able to see the subtle differences in the changes and improvements from one year to the next,” he says. “This is my first chance to drive the latest version.”
“My first thought is this is basically what I have come to expect from Prevost,” he adds.
The second leg of the training route takes the bus on a rural stretch of highway behind Arizona’s famed Superstition Mountains, 35 miles west of Phoenix in an area called Tortilla Flats where motorcoaches rarely tread — except for Ashcraft with his aspiring Arrow Stage drivers.
“This is an old, narrow and twisting two-lane highway with plenty of dips,” he says. “This is an ideal setting for a driver to really get the feel for the coach and understand how it handles. There’s a lot to be aware of out here, especially in oncoming traffic.”
As for the handling capabilities of the Prevost during Ashcraft’s drive, he remained impressed with its responsiveness.
So what new additions to the 2015 Prevost did Ashcraft notice? It often comes down to those few changes or improvements that only a driver or technician would notice.
In this case, heading directly into the afternoon sun, it was as simple as the sliver of amber-tinted plexiglas covering the gap between the front left column and the pull-down windshield sunshade.
“Where I am sitting, a driver can just sit, bake and feel very uncomfortable,” he says. “In most coaches, the driver has to lean one way or another in the seat to find relief from the light shining through this section of the windshield. The simple addition of this shade screen is an easy solution to a nerve-wracking situation for coach drivers.”
He says he had not seen this small but important addition until now.
“I recall one driver who put white duct tape over part of the windshield to block the sun,” Ashcraft says. “I would just politely remove it. Now I completely understand.”
While his Official BUSRide Road Test through downtown Phoenix and out in the Superstition foothills went just about as Ashcraft anticipated from Prevost, a number of systems were at work on the 2015 Prevost H3-45 work that ensured his expectations were met.
One is Prevost PRIME® — power recovery by intelligent management of energy.
“Prevost PRIME reduces fuel consumption by using the engine down time in braking, deceleration and other negative torque situations to charge the batteries and compress air, and delivers an estimated 2 percent fuel savings,” says Prevost Marketing and Communications Director Michael Power. “Prevost validated these results in real driving conditions with various duty cycles.”
He says a Prevost coach equipped with PRIME can obtain maximum fuel economy driving over hills and flat portions that allow the batteries to charge only when the vehicle is in free wheel. The batteries charge with free energy without consuming fuel during the charging process.
“In all honesty, I wasn’t really wasn’t aware of this system while I was driving,” Ashcraft says. “It just quietly does its work behind the scenes. I appreciate how Prevost has introduced technologies that help reduce operational costs.”
Prevost AWARE® — adaptive cruise braking by Bendix® for the coach market — is an innovative approach to collision mitigation that helps the driver maintain a safe following distance. When the distance between the coach and the vehicle ahead begins to close, the system provides warnings and action to maintain the distance when cruise control is engaged, including brake applications.
Using a small radar sensor mounted on the front of the coach, the system sends out a radar signal up to 500 feet in front of the vehicle, tracking up to 32 objects in its range.
“Bendix road tests have indicated that drivers using the system are more alert throughout their shift,” Power says. “The system delivers solid data, such as information about following distance, cruise control use and stability events.”
Power explains that the driver enjoys the benefit of both audible and visual alerts, and proactive interventions, such as reducing throttle, engaging the engine retarder and automatic brake applications to maintain the prescribed following distance.
“The system helps in two significant ways,” Power says. “In addition to maintaining a safe following distance, AWARE can help drivers stay in cruise control longer, which also can result in fuel savings.”
“I have seen video footage of the Prevost AWARE system in action,” Ashcraft says. “It helps for the driver to understand how it sends an alert and slows the coach. From a safety coordinator’s viewpoint, this system is a valuable asset.”
“Fortunately, in our test drive, we were never in a situation that would engage the system,” he adds. “Nonetheless, AWARE is a great safety asset, and it helps just to know it’s there.”
Bendix ESP® is a full stability system and integral to Prevost AWARE as a further step in collision mitigation.
“ESP is always active to help mitigate rollovers and loss of control,” Power says. “It is especially helpful on every type of road condition, from summer rain to winter snow and ice.”
Prevost points to tire choices as another important factor in fuel consumption as an effect of rolling resistance. Prevost has partnered with Michelin to provide a choice of tires that lay claim to a reduction in fuel consumption and a long tire life.
Ashcraft pulled the 2015 Prevost H3-45 into the Arrow Stage Lines yard after driving the coach for nearly the full work shift, extremely pleased with the performance and response of the coach.