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All students deserve a safe and comfortable ride to school. However, there is one group of riders that Smart Suspension manufacturer LiquidSpring has identified as one of the greatest beneficiaries of what their product can offer: students with disabilities and special needs.
“I think it really just comes down to understanding who your product can actually benefit,” says Chris Lamkin, marketing manager for LiquidSpring. “Personally, I don’t think there is a vehicle on the road that wouldn’t be safer and more enjoyable with some version of our technology, but that’s not realistic. Who has a unique problem we can help solve? Where can we make an impact?”
It is this sort of thinking that led LiquidSpring to begin its entry into the school bus market with its proprietary silicon-based ride and handling solution. The goal? To make transportation safer for students and easier on drivers and assistants – to not only operate the vehicle but also to improve communication between themselves and the children they are charged with protecting.
“My goddaughter is autistic – and she is beautiful, she’s talented, she’s got this incredible personality…she’s totally amazing,” explained Lamkin. “There are a ton of children that experience the world a little differently than their peers and there has to be systems, products, and processes in place that support these kids. My goddaughter, for example, is seriously impacted by certain noises or movements that don’t seem to even register with her sister.”
LiquidSpring asserts that by continuously managing loads on board while simultaneously and instantaneously responding to both changes in road conditions (debris, wind, etc.) and driver input (steering), their suspension system offers operators and student travelers alike the absolute best in ride quality.
“LiquidSpring gave us a product and an application in the bus that made it certainly more comfortable for the operator and the riders,” shared Mike Nortier, executive director for Island Transit in Washington.
Furthermore, by reducing vibrations and evenly distributing weight across the chassis, buses with a LiquidSpring offering have reported a savings of over 50 percent in non-planned maintenance over other equally utilized vehicles.
“Our goal is for people to be safe and comfortable on the road, because they can be. Students should always get to school feeling like they can take on the world; because we need them to,” stated Lamkin.
With its origins in off-highway mining, LiquidSpring has been developing its active suspension technology over the last two decades. Following their success of vastly improving efficiency and drastically reducing worker injury in the mining arena, LiquidSpring decided to get their products “on the road.”
Beginning with ambulances, LiquidSpring has revolutionized the way travel is experienced in historical light vehicle markets. In the past ten years, LiquidSpring has gone from new entrant to owner of 98 percent of the suspension upgrade market in the EMS realm.
With their efforts in the motorhome and transit bus marketplaces, things are just getting started for the Indiana-based company.
LiquidSpring is also patiently awaiting the completion of FMVSS 136 testing on two IC school buses outfitted with their suspension system. The 136 testing is mandatory for commercial vehicles in the US, but not school bus; however, 136 testing is required in Canada for both commercial vehicles and school buses.
As many of you are aware, FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) testing is a critical aspect in the approval process of vehicles meant for public service and transportation. While there are roughly 100 safety standards that the federal government regulates, the “136” testing is specific to student transportation – a successful FMVSS 136 test is what gets a school bus on the road.
LiquidSpring is currently offered as a factory option on IC Bus, a division of Navistar International Corporation. Once the 136 testing is complete, the company plans to make this offering more broadly available.