By Ivan Roberts
Keep these tips and ideas in mind when selecting a safe vehicle for church use.
The church bus. Not many things are more evocative of the role a church plays in the life of its community and its members, as the church bus shuttles them to and fro.
When you think about it, though, this raises an important question: What message are you communicating with your selection of church transportation? After all, few things are more visible and high-profile — outside of your facility itself — than your official mode of transportation. Indeed, there might be many people in your community who know your church by its vehicle alone.
And, while the reconditioned or repainted old school bus can help provide a nice dose of levity and goodwill as it’s out and about, it’s important to ask yourself about the broader perception you’re conveying to those who see that bus and — just as important — to those who ride on it.
Does it promote an image of sophistication? Modernity? Technological understanding? Safety?
That last question is, of course, the most vital. Any time you transport parishioners or others from the community aboard your official transportation (whether it’s shuttling church members to and from Sunday services or transporting children to and from church school), the most important goal is to do it as safely as possible.
A buyer’s checklist
With that in mind, here’s a handy checklist to keep in mind when selecting the safest vehicle for your church:
Reliability. It seems simple, but reliability is a crucial factor in determining a bus’s overall safety. How dependable will this bus be? Will it start every time and run reliably, trip after trip after trip, for tens (and hundreds) of thousands of miles? If it’s reliable, after all, there’s less worry about it breaking down or encountering issues while on the road or in transit.
Component quality. Reliability, in turn, is driven in large part by the relative quality of the parts and components a manufacturer uses in building a vehicle. Higher-quality parts and components create a higher-quality vehicle. A higher-quality vehicle is often — but not always — more reliable, safer, and built to last longer.
Driver setup and ergonomics. Features as simple as the windshield and hood of a bus can have an outsize impact on overall safety. A more sloped hood and taller windshield, for example, can greatly increase driver visibility of the road in front of and around the bus. Additionally, the cab’s ergonomics play a role in keeping a driver focused on the road and, as a result, keeping passengers safe. A dashboard focused on optimized ergonomics — making sure common buttons, features and functions are easily located and used — keeps the driver’s hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
Vehicle maneuverability. A more maneuverable vehicle (one with a greater turning radius, for example) offers several safety benefits. A greater turning radius means fewer points in a turn, which afford fewer opportunities to back up and / or navigate blind spots. And, a more maneuverable vehicle makes it easier for drivers to negotiate tight turns in cramped spaces, keeping vehicle and passengers safe in what could otherwise be stressful driving situations.
Of course, this checklist will bear slight differences or additions based on the specific goals for the bus you’re buying. A church seeking a bus to transport elderly members might value mobility and accessibility more than one intended to carry children, for example.
Even so, these key items listed should be at the top of every checklist to ensure you end up with the safest vehicle possible.
After all, your members — and your church as a whole — are riding on it.
Ivan Roberts is Sales Manager, Commercial Bus for Freightliner Custom Chassis. He has more than 15 years of experience in product testing, quality assurance, engineering and sales — all with the company — and has worked with a multitude of churches and religious organizations to develop and deliver custom vehicle solutions.