Friday, November 18, 2011

TRIMET review of the new buses

A group of TriMet employees just returned from the Gillig factory where they observed the manufacturing of new buses. They toured the entire manufacturing facility and had a chance to witness thepowertrain functionality work being done at the end of their first manufacturing line. At this point there are no body panels on the bus, it’s just a frame with the motor at the back and tires. TriMet staff was impressed with a key company policy: if the engine fails, the president is contacted. Having our employees there made the difference in a number of ways:
  • In the manufacturer’s assembly line, an issue arose in regards to a specific tire size. The tiremen were contacted to confirm the issue and find a size that would work with the new fleet. The tire size was changed to one that is already in use on our older buses in the fleet. This allows for TriMet to use current equipment (ex: tire chains) and minimize the different tire sizes needing to be stocked. Changes like this are made possible due to the coordination of many TriMet employees who have a keen interest in our equipment’s performance and reliability. 
  • During this round of the bus procurement, representatives from operator training participated in rating each of the contenders from an operator’s point-of-view.

Gillig manufactures multiple properties at a time, so the first bus coming off the line could be a TriMet bus, but then you have a Port of Seattle bus right behind it and then a SamTrans bus, for example. Because they will be producing approximately one of our buses a day, it should make it easier for TriMet’s inspection staff to follow a bus during the process. They can concentrate on a single bus every day and ensure that everything is assembled to our standard. 
An employee noted another advantage to having our employees in the factory:
“One thing that Gillig expressed was how large the group was and the vast expertise of the team. Usually they have a couple of representatives from an agency and there’s a lot of back and forth in trying to spec a bus. They commented at how easy the process was with us in spec’ing our bus because we had experts from nearly every field pertaining to the bus so we were able to arrive at answers fairly quickly. They were able to cross reference our specs and their spec sheets so we could quickly resolve issues of misunderstandings”

Changing bus manufacturers is a big undertaking for the agency. TriMet has not bought a new Gillig bus since 1997 (2100 high floor buses). The pilot bus is expected to be built in late March 2012 and in Portland, for review, mid April 2012. After buses are built, they’re driven by Gillig to Portland and a Gillig subcontractor will perform the final installation of some TriMet components, such as fare boxes, radio equipment and mirrors.

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