Tri-State Travel adds the MCI J3500 to its all-MCI fleet

Andrew Hillard, president of Galena, Illinois-based Tri-State Travel, had a plan for the new MCI J3500 the moment he test drove the all-new 35-foot model on MCI’s Reliability Rally event last year.

“We wanted one of the first models, and we got one.” Hillard said.

The all-MCI operator has now put its first J3500 into service — a 40-seat model with plenty of legroom featuring MCI’s top-of-the-line advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) and a customizable interior lighting package that allows its key customers eye-catching branding as they ride.

That would include tour groups, charters, high schools, colleges and universities. In recent years, Tri-State had begun to see some fundamental changes in school market.

“We conduct many day trips for school sports teams, and they don’t need a full 56-passenger bus, and a mini-bus can be too small. However, a 40- to 44-seat coach provides equal comfort at a better price point,” Hillard said. “Just a little bit of cost savings and real comfort makes an enormous difference in winning college business.”

The new J3500 —the second member of the new MCI J-Family — was also designed with operator cost-savings in mind. Like the 45-foot best-selling MCI J4500, the J3500’s all stainless steel, semi-monocoque construction provides a long-time lifespan and is backed by MCI’s standard Super-60 limited warranty, which extends coverage on many of the coach’s components up to five years or 500,000 miles and expands coverage on others.

All in the MCI parts family

Parts commonality with the MCI J4500 in electrical, suspension, HVAC, frame, body and brake components helps J-Series operators keep a lean parts inventory as well. Additionally, the J3500’s EPA 2017 Cummins L9 engine is cooled by an all-electric e-Fan system for gains in fuel efficiency and reliability. The L9 connects to the Allison Gen V B500, 6-speed automatic transmission found in J4500 series coaches.

For extra safety, Tri-State’s new J3500 carries the optional Bendix Wingman Fusion System with adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation functionality and a 360-degree camera system and 500 GB digital recording system. Safety features are of particular interest to high schools and universities, Hillard said.

“These days, there’s not a market that doesn’t want the greatest safety advancements on a vehicle,” he said. “It’s important to us to make this type of investment.”

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