High Point, N.C. - Signed, sealed and delivered. That's how Thomas Built Buses employees presented its last customer-ready FS-65 conventional school bus.
John O'Leary, president and CEO of Thomas Built Buses, handed the final set of FS-65 keys to Gary O'Brien, owner and operator of College Park, Maryland-based O'Brien Bus Service in a ceremony at one of Thomas' five manufacturing facilities in High Point, N.C.
O'Leary called the FS-65 a proven performer. "Thomas Built Buses is a company built on innovation. Innovation led to the introduction of our first school bus nearly 70 years ago and to the development of the
venerable FS-65 conventional. We took innovation and styling to levels
never before seen in our industry with the introduction of our new
Saf-T-Liner(r) C2 two years ago. Although this is the end of an era, it is a time of celebration as this company continues to evolve" he said.
"I've been interested in buses since I was a kid," said O'Brien, who started O'Brien Bus Service eleven years ago and today primarily transports private school students to athletic events, field trips and church youth group events. "I am honored to purchase the last FS-65."
Each Thomas employee and O'Brien himself signed an exposed interior panel and numerous hidden panels throughout the bus. When the chassis was manufactured by Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC) in Gaffney, S.C. last month, the chassis frame rails were signed by FCCC employees. The colorful bus is themed "Pride of the Carolinas" in recognition of the close relationship between the two plants and of Mr.
O'Brien's North Carolina roots.
With this delivery, the FS-65 conventional design has been retired. The basic body design dates back to 1972, when it was offered on a variety of chassis brands. A total of 249,036 conventional bodies have been
produced since 1972. Thomas began offering this bus body on the
Freightliner-designed FS-65 chassis in 1995 and within five years, the design had captured more than one-third of the Type C market. The FS-65 delivered durability and reliability, backed by exceptional Thomas service. It also introduced many new features to the school bus market, including an improved line-of-sight, an extra-tight turning radius and an easily accessible engine compartment. A total run of 62,764 Freightliner FS-65 chassis were produced.
In 2004, following significant market research, design, testing and fabrication, Thomas Built Buses launched the Saf-T-Liner C2, a new conventional-style bus that redefined the Type C category. The C2 is a next-generation conventional school bus designed from the ground up with customer and driver input. Built on a Freightliner chassis designed specifically for school bus applications, the C2 delivers superior durability, reliability and safety with world-class engineering, testing and manufacturing technology.
O'Brien, a North Carolina native, has been a fan of Thomas Built Buses since the age of 14, when he led a fundraiser for his church youth group to buy a new bus-a Thomas Built. As a high school sophomore, an article about O'Brien's interest in Thomas Built Buses made its way to Thomas headquarters and eventually led to a visit from company management. As a college student at East Carolina University and a graduate student at the University of Maryland, O'Brien worked for the student-operated campus transit services. After graduation, he landed a job as transportation director for a public school district in Maryland. In 1995, when budget cuts led to a layoff, he decided to start his own bus company. Today he owns O'Brien Bus Service, a fleet of twelve Thomas buses contracted to public and private schools in Washington, D.C. and Maryland.
Celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, Thomas Built Buses
(www.thomasbus.com) is the leading manufacturer of school buses in North America, with more than one-third of the market. Since the first Thomas Built bus rolled off the assembly line in 1936, the company has focused entirely on delivering the smartest and most innovative buses in North America.
Thomas Built Buses is a subsidiary of Freightliner LLC, the largest heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America and a leading manufacturer of class 3-8 vehicles. Freightliner LLC produces and markets commercial vehicles under the Freightliner, Sterling, Western Star and Thomas Built Buses nameplates. Freightliner is a company of DaimlerChrysler, the world's largest commercial vehicle manufacturer.