Blue Bird Corporation
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2010)|
"Your Children's Safety Is Our Business"
|Founder(s)||Albert L. Luce, Sr.|
|Headquarters||402 Blue Bird Blvd
P.O. Box 937
Fort Valley, GA 31030
|Key people||Phil Horlock, President and CEO|
|Owner(s)||The Traxis Group, B.V.|
The Blue Bird Corporation, originally known as the Blue Bird Body Company, is an American manufacturer of school and activity buses. Established in 1927, the company has also manufactured transit buses, motorhomes, and specialty vehicles such as mobile libraries and mobile police command centers. Blue Bird's corporate headquarters and main manufacturing facility are in Fort Valley, Georgia. It is a subsidiary of the Traxis Group B.V., part of Cerberus Capital Management.
The Blue Bird company logo, painted on the roof of its buses, is a silhouette profile of its namesake, a bluebird.
- 1 History
- 1.1 1927–1945: The Change to Steel
- 1.2 1945–1960: New Need for School Transportation
- 1.3 1960–1990: Expansion into new markets
- 1.4 1990–2006: Ownership changes
- 1.5 2007–present: Renewed Focus On School Buses
- 2 Products
- 3 Manufacturing and assembly
- 4 Images
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
1927–1945: The Change to Steel
Albert L. Luce, Sr. was the owner of the local Ford dealership in Fort Valley, Georgia in the late 1920s. Luce was given the idea to construct a bus after a stock vehicle sold to a customer was of insufficient quality; the wooden bus body started to disintegrate before the customer finished paying for the vehicle. After suggestions from the customer, he decided to try building his own bus body on a Model T frame. In an effort to improve over the original wood-framed bus that he had sold, Luce constructed the frame of his bus body with steel angles and sheetmetal, using wood sparingly. Completed in 1927, the bus was put into service transporting school children.
After the construction of seven more bus bodies, Luce sold his Ford franchise in 1932 to produce bus bodies full-time to start his own company. When deciding upon a name, Luce chose the Blue Bird name for a variety of reasons. The Blue Bird name originated from the positive reception of school children to a blue and yellow demonstrator unit from a group of school children; Luce was nervous about the use of the family name for his business out of fears of it being mispronounced (i.e., "the loose bus").
In 1937, the company began production of full-steel bus bodies, an innovation which soon replaced the wooden bodies which were then in common use around the United States. The early use of farm wagons on a part-time basis soon evolved into purpose-built school bus products, each with economy and function as major priorities.
As the second quarter of the 20th century began, Albert Luce Sr. was one of the entrepreneurs of the period who transitioned from building wagons to developing some of the earliest purpose-built school buses. In a 1939 conference, Blue Bird engineers helped to develop the color school bus yellow, which is still in use today. Blue Bird and Wayne Corporation were several of the earliest to experiment with steel body construction, although such efforts were severely limited by war production product shortages and restrictions during World War II.
1945–1960: New Need for School Transportation
Following World War II, continuing a transition from one-room schools, there was a nationwide movement in the US to consolidate schools into fewer and larger ones, facilitating graded class structures. This meant that fewer students were attending school in their immediate neighborhoods, particularly as they progressed into high school; for many, the previous practice of walking to school became impractical. This led in turn to a large increase in the demand for transportation. The company grew substantially and became a major school bus body builder in the post-World War II period.
In 1948, Blue Bird founder Albert Luce Sr. viewed a design for a flat-front bus at an auto show in Paris. Two years later Blue Bird Body Company introduced their own transit-style design which evolved into the Blue Bird All American, often pointed to as one of the pioneer transit designs to gain widespread acceptance for school buses in North America, along with Wayne Corporation, Gillig Corporation and Crown Coach Corporation (whose "Supercoach" dated to 1932). In 1952, Blue Bird became the first school bus manufacturer to produce its own chassis rather than rely on outside suppliers for the All American; today, Blue Bird builds the chassis for every full-size bus produced.
1960–1990: Expansion into new markets
Blue Bird became an international manufacturer of school buses with the opening of Blue Bird Canada in Brantford, Ontario in 1958. In 1965, the company opened its first facility in Latin America. In Guatemala, Blue Bird manufactured the bodies for the Conventional and the All American for use both as school and transit buses. Instead of importing truck chassis (or the Blue Bird All American transit-style chassis) from the United States, the bus bodies were manufactured on locally available chassis unseen in North America (Mercedes-Benz, Hino, Nissan Diesel, and Toyota).
At the time of Albert Luce, Sr.'s death in 1962, Blue Bird Body Company had become the fourth-largest school bus manufacturer in the industry. By 1980, Blue Bird was one of the "Big Six" school bus body manufacturers in the United States, competing with Carpenter Body Works, Superior Coach Company, Thomas Built Buses, Inc., Ward Body Works, and Wayne Corporation. By this time, almost the entire Baby Boom generation had completed their high-school education; along with the move to from cities to suburbs, the higher student populations of the previous two decades had been a key factor behind school bus sales. The recession of the early 1980s cut deeply into profits, leading to the re-organization or closure of several manufacturers. Blue Bird fared better than most manufacturers, becoming the largest manufacturer in terms of sales; by the mid-1980s, one out of every three new school buses was a Blue Bird.
Wanderlodge and Transit Buses
In the 1960s, Blue Bird Body Company also started making luxury motor coaches based on the All American. Branded "Wanderlodge", the first of this popular product line was built in 1963. The design of the Wanderlodge  closely followed that of the All American for over 25 years.
Blue Bird entered the commercial public transit bus market in the 1970s. The shorter wheelbase transit-style models proved popular with smaller cities and those with cul-de-sac route ends, providing better maneuverability, and more efficient costs than larger models. The Q-Bus commercial bus for transit and charter applications was introduced in 1992.
Small School Buses
Although Blue Bird did not come up with the idea of the small school bus, the company gained significant market share with two of its designs. In 1975, Blue Bird introduced the Micro Bird, a dual rear-wheel cutaway van similar to the Wayne Busette. The Micro Bird set itself apart from other small school buses of the time by featuring a full-height school bus door and additional windows forward of the door to aid loading-zone visibility.
A limitation of the Micro Bird was that its van chassis restricted the overall width of the bus body. For a school bus that was still short in length but was still as wide as the Conventional/All American, a different solution was needed. In 1977, the Mini Bird was introduced.
For the 1988 model year, Blue Bird supplemented the All American school bus line with the TC/2000 transit-style school bus. Unlike the premium All American, the TC/2000 was priced lower (nearly in line with the Conventional) in an effort to secure bids from larger fleet operators. Coinciding with the introduction of the TC/2000 was most extensive redesign of the All American for the first time since the late 1950s; it was introduced for 1989.
From 1997 to 2001, Blue Bird sold a smaller version of the TC/2000 named the TC/1000. Like the TC/2000, the TC/1000 was developed for a specific type of buyer. Its body was slightly modified to better accommodate operators who transported special needs customers.
1990–2006: Ownership changes
From its 1932 foundation until 1984, Blue Bird was run entirely by the Luce family, either by Albert Sr or by his three sons. In 1986, the board of directors hired Paul Glaske, president of Marathon LeTourneau, a Texas-based heavy equipment manufacturer. During this time, the Luce family still maintained ownership of the company. In 1992, Merrill Lynch Capital Partners purchased an 82% stake of the company in a management-led buyout with the other 18% spread between Paul Glaske and 14 other Blue Bird managers. After the buyout, the company name changed from Blue Bird Body Company to Blue Bird Corporation.
Sagging demand, financial difficulties and changing world markets in the 1990s and early 2000s lead to Blue Bird closing two plants and opening another. Blue Bird East was shut down in 1992; Blue Bird de Mexico in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, was opened in 1995.
Blue Bird was owned by the British Henlys Group PLC with a substantial financial stake held by Volvo Group from 1999 to 2004. Henlys had financial difficulties during this time, including some not related to its investment in Blue Bird. Blue Bird de Mexico in Monterrey, Mexico was closed in 2001. Blue Bird Midwest was closed in 2002.
According to a company news release from the fall of 2004, Blue Bird became the "sole operating subsidiary" of a newly created holding company, Peach County Holdings Inc. As part of the deal, a banking syndicate made up of Henlys creditors owned 42.5 percent of the Peach stock, according to Blue Bird. The Volvo Group (the world's largest bus manufacturer) owned another 42.5 percent, with the balance owned by Henlys' "pension scheme" and Blue Bird's management. Also in 2004, Blue Bird introduced the Vision, the first conventional-style school bus to be built without relying on an outside supplier for chassis.
However, after a bankruptcy filing, Blue Bird was acquired by Cerberus Capital Management. In connection with the acquisition by Cerberus of North American Bus Industries and Optima Bus Corporation, Blue Bird's acquisition led to Cerberus having a complete line of school and transit buses. Blue Bird is currently owned by the Traxis Group B.V., who acquired them in 2006.
The late 1980s and 1990s saw the Blue Bird product lineup in flux in comparison to the decades before. In 1988, Blue Bird introduced the TC/2000, its first all-new transit-style school bus in over 25 years; the flagship All American was redesigned a year later. In 1991, the Blue Bird Wanderlodge ended the use of its school bus body. The 1992 Q-Bus was the first Blue Bird transit bus designed from the ground up as a transit bus and not derived from the All American.
The 1990s were also a period that the company explored the use of alternative power sources for school buses. In 1991, Blue Bird introduced the first school bus (an All American Rear Engine) powered by compressed natural gas (CNG). In 1994, Blue Bird developed a battery-powered school bus in an effort with Westinghouse Electronic Systems for a school district in California. While the electric school bus remained a prototype, Blue Bird has continued to offer CNG as an option on the All American since its 1991 introduction.
2007–present: Renewed Focus On School Buses
Through 2007, Blue Bird executed a series of plant closing and product line divestitures intended to re-focus the company on the school bus market in an effort to improve profitability and market position. The commercial bus production was transferred to NABI's Anniston, Alabama facilities. Blue Bird’s original and last remaining international plant, Blue Bird Canada, was closed August 10, 2007. Later in 2007, the rights to the Wanderlodge were sold to Complete Coach Works, ending Blue Bird's 44-year participation in the recreational vehicle market. 
In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of Blue Bird No. 1 (and the centennial of the Model T Ford), it was donated to The Henry Ford Museum by the Luce family in 2008. 2008 saw major updates for the Vision. Unveiled in late 2008 as a 2010 model, the All American saw the most extensive changes to its body in nearly 50 years.
In October 2009, Blue Bird further streamlined its bus production as it entered into a joint venture with Canadian school bus manufacturer Girardin Minibus. Dubbed Micro Bird, Inc., all small bus production was consolidated at the Girardin facilities in Quebec, Canada; consequently, all Blue Bird production is now limited to full-size conventional and transit buses. The 2010 Micro Bird was the last Blue Bird bus to use a non-Blue Bird chassis.
During 2013, a new generation of the All American entered production as a 2014 model, replacing its predecessors launched in 2008 and in 1999. Distinguished by its rounder roof, the new All American has increased parts commonality with the Vision. Alongside the All American, the Vision saw its own update, introduced for the 2015 model year; propane-fueled Visions now have an extended-range 98-gallon fuel tank. In late 2013, Blue Bird announced the option of Blue Bird Connect™, integrated GPS-based fleet management software developed by Synovia Solutions. While Blue Bird Connect™ was designed as an integrated system, it was also intended for retrofit to existing fleets of school buses as well. 
|Current Product Line|
|Model Name||Micro Bird by Girardin||Vision||All American (T3)|
|Assembly||Drummondville, Quebec, Canada||Fort Valley, Georgia|
MB-II:single rear wheel
G5:dual rear wheel
(front engine, rear engine)
|Chassis Manufacturer||Ford Motor Company
Gasoline, Diesel, Propane
Diesel, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)
|Former Product Lines|
|Model Name||Years Produced||Assembly||Configuration||Chassis Supplier||Notes|
(single or dual rear wheel)
|Ford Motor Company
Ford Econoline/E-Series General Motors
Chevrolet Express (1997–present)
Chevrolet G-30/GMC Vandura (1975–1996)
Chevrolet P-30 (1995–1996)
|MB-II/MB-IV||1992–1999||Drummondville, Quebec, Canada||Type A
||Ford Motor Company
Ford Econoline/E-Series (1992–1999)
Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana (1997–1999)
Chevrolet G-30/GMC Vandura (1992–1996)
||Type B||General Motors
CV200 & SBCV
||Type C||Chrysler Corporation
Dodge D-300 (to 1977)
Freightliner FS-65 (1997–2002)
Ford Motor Company
Chevrolet/GMC B-Series (1966–2003)
International 3800 (1989–2004)
(front engine,rear engine)
|Blue Bird Corporation||
||Blue Bird Corporation||
- Transit Buses
- CS - Derivative of Blue Bird's Type D product line produced for the commercial market. Three specific variants derived from All American, TC/2000, and TC/1000.
- Q-Bus- commercial transit/charter bus, produced from 1992 to 2001.
- LTC-40- 47-passenger highway motorcoach produced from 1997 to 2003. The LTC shared a common bodyshell with the Wanderlodge LX introduced in 1998.
- Ultra LF, Ultra LMB, and Xcel 102 - commercial buses; product lines discontinued in 2010 after the transfer of low-floor bus model lines to parent corporation subsidiary North American Bus Industries, Inc. (NABI) in 2007.
- Wanderlodge - luxury recreational vehicle/motorcoach; rights to product line sold to Complete Coach Works in 2007. Production ceased in 2009.
- Envirobus 2000 -a school bus prototype built in 1996 that served as a testbed for both safety-related technology as well as the viability of compressed natural gas school buses. Not intended as a production vehicle.
- 2002 Blue Bird/Ford - several prototypes of Type C school bus bodies built on Ford F-750 chassis. Ford ultimately never entered into a supply agreement with Blue Bird (to replace the GM one that was to soon to expire); these were the last Ford-chassis Type C school buses ever built. Several features later incorporated into the Vision introduced in 2004.
- EC-72 -a limited-production series of Type C school bus prototypes intended to test out new production designs; these were manufactured in 2006. Chassis design based on 2008-2014 Blue Bird Vision. Approximately 50 were produced in total.
|Blue Bird Corporation Timeline, 1970-present|
|Company Ownership||A.L. Luce family||Merrill Lynch
|Type A||Micro Bird||Microbird MB-II|
|MB-II/MB-IV by Girardin||Microbird G5|
|Type B||Mini Bird|
|Type D||All American (1957)||All American (1989)||All American (A3)||All Amer. (T3)|
|TC/2000||TC/2000||TC/2000||All American (D3)|
Manufacturing and assembly
Traditionally, school buses such as those produced by Blue Bird consist of components purchased from various outside suppliers and parts which are manufactured in-house to the company's specifications. These two categories of parts are then typically assembled into bodies which can be mounted onto chassis which have often been variations of those used in a myriad of truck applications.
Production-wise, the large "home" plant complex in Fort Valley, Georgia served as both a part manufacturing plant for the entire organization as well as one of the six locations where bodies were assembled from in house and purchased components. Parts and service were also located in Fort Valley, as was Wanderlodge Wayside Park, a tree-shaded motor home park for visiting Wanderlodges adjacent to the Wanderlodge plant.
Blue Bird Corporation currently operates a single manufacturing facility in the United States: the Blue Bird Body Company in Fort Valley, Georgia. A second facility (Blue Bird North Georgia) in LaFayette, Georgia was closed August 30, 2010.
In the past, Blue Bird has had an international manufacturing presence, with two factories in Canada, one in Mexico, and one in South America. These have now all been closed due to changing market conditions and Blue Bird's shift back to a lineup of school bus-based vehicles.
|Blue Bird Corporation Manufacturing Facilities|
|Name||Location||Product Lines||Year Opened||Year Closed||Notes|
|Blue Bird Body Company||Fort Valley, Georgia||See Notes||
|Blue Bird North Georgia||LaFayette, Georgia||
||1988||2010||Closed August 30, 2010.|
|Blue Bird Midwest||Mount Pleasant, Iowa||
|Blue Bird East||Buena Vista, Virginia||
|Blue Bird Wanderlodge||Fort Valley, Georgia||
||1963||2007||Originally opened as Cardinal Manufacturing|
|Blue Bird Canada||Brantford, Ontario, Canada||
||1958||2007||Blue Bird also operated a facility in St. Lin, Quebec from 1975 to 1982|
|Micro Bird, Inc.||Drummondville, Quebec, Canada||Micro Bird (MB-II, G5)||1981||Girardin Minibus production facility|
|Blue Bird de Mexico||Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico||
|Blue Bird Central America||Guatemala City, Guatemala||See Notes||1965||1980s||Produced All American and Conventional bodies on locally available chassis.|
2000s Blue Bird All American FE bus in transit service in Bronx, NY.
Right hand drive Blue Bird TC/3000 in use with First Essex in Essex, UK.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Blue Bird buses.|
- "Blue Bird Corporation". Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- Traxis Group
- http://www.blue-bird.com Blue Bird Corporation
- McKeegan, Noel (March 9, 2008). "First steel-bodied school bus donated to Henry Ford museum". gizmag.com. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- "History of Blue Bird Corporation – FundingUniverse". Fundinguniverse.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- "Blue Bird Corporation/About Us/History". Retrieved 2010-01-11.
- Blue Bird Corporation To Relocate Micro Bird Production; Blue Bird Press Release, May 8, 2007
- http://www.secinfo.com/dRqWm.82F7.htm#d4p Blue Bird Body Co. 1996 10-K405 Annual Report -- [X] Reg. S-K Item 405
- "Volvo Group; Volvo Logistics North America". Volvo.com. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
- Osborne, Alistair (2001-09-07). "Telegraph.co.uk; Henlys takes a skid after US bus sales fall". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
- "Blue Bird Corporation/About Us/History". Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- http://www.blue-bird.com/2007-07-16_01.php Blue Bird Corporation To Sell Coachworks Coach And RV Product Lines To Complete Coach Works; Blue Bird Press Release, July 16, 2007
- CCW Acquires Blue Bird Coachworks and Wanderlodge[dead link]
- "School Bus Fleet News, Blue Bird No. 1 donated to historical institution, March 10, 2008". Schoolbusfleet.com. 2008-03-10. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
- "Press Releases/BLUE BIRD AND GIRARDIN ANNOUNCE JOINT VENTURE(2009-10-19)". Retrieved 2010-01-17.
- http://blue-bird.com/uploadedFiles/Downloads/SB-BBCONNECT-1013_LR.pdf. Retrieved 1 February 2014. Missing or empty
- "Autobus Girardin - Minibus (Specialized bus) Used minibus | Autobus Girardin (School bus) Girardin Minibus". Girardinbluebird.com. 2009-05-23. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
- "Girardin; A Brief History". Autobusgirardin.com. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
- "Blue Bird Envirobus 2000 School Bus". Blue Bird Corporation via http://web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 1998-05-19. Retrieved 2010-07-10. Archived version of Blue Bird's website on this vehicle, with link to specifications.
- "School Bus Central- 2002 Blue Bird/Ford". Retrieved 2010-07-10. Webpage with archived version of product literature
- LaFayette Blue Bird bus plant being shut down; Chattanooga Times-Free Press; June 24, 2010
- "Press Releases". Blue Bird Corporation. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- Blue-Bird.com Blue Bird Corporation official website
- Blue Bird Corporation official Facebook Page
- Blue Bird Corporation official Twitter Page
- STN Online: Archives of 100 years of School Bus History
- School Bus Fleet magazine official website
- Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for school buses
- U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics
- Technical support forum for the Blue Bird Wanderlodge