Creative Bus Sales’ Smooth Ride Supported by Swagelok
For Creative Bus Sales (Chino, Calif.), the road to success was intentionally bumpy. As a leader in the conversion of transit buses to compressed natural gas (CNG), Creative Bus Sales sent its proprietary conversions for Altoona testing conducted by the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute. Rated in the 7 year, 200,000 mile service life category, Creative Bus Sales’ conversions withstood performance conditions that included heavy vibration on the fuel lines, a major source for maintenance issues.
Owners T.J. and Mark Matijevich knew that securing Altoona testing was critical to their business. It is required by the California Air Resource Board to deliver CNG vehicle products into the state, where many incentives and subsidies are available for converting transit vehicles to CNG. The testing, which is administered through the College of Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University, collects data on bus performance to help purchasers manage risks during the procurement process and allow owners to select appropriate maintenance schedules. The Creative Bus Sales vehicle underwent inspection with zero unscheduled maintenance, a factor the company says is key to customers.
Successful completion of the Altoona testing by Creative Bus Sales was, in part, delivered by careful selection of fluid system components. They rely on Swagelok stainless steel tubing, compression fittings, NPT fittings, and high pressure hoses for connection of the fuel line to the engine and installation of a vent line from the fuel tanks. This area of the installation is subject to stress during the normal transit process and can be an area of maintenance and safety concern. The connections have to be of the highest integrity to prevent leakage to atmosphere.
“Portions of the Altoona test involve heavy vibration of the fuel lines,” said Mark, faculty conversion manager. “The fittings themselves have to withstand the vibration, as well as the tubing has to withstand any twisting to the tubing structure. With our design we try to minimize the twisting of the tubing, but the fittings still have to be very resistant to vibration.”
The Matijevivhs and their employees are serviced by San Diego Fluid System Technologies, a Swagelok authorized sales and service center. San Diego FST provides comprehensive coverage to Creative Bus
Swagelok® tube fittings provide excellent gas-tight sealing, easily-achieved proper installation, and excellent vibration fatigue resistance. Their two-ferrule design provides improved tube-gripping action with easy installation by specified turns or torque. The seal can be consistently remade if maintenance becomes necessary.
According to T.J., director of marketing, when Creative Bus Sales started in the conversion business in 1993, the service manager researched many different manufacturers and decided on Swagelok as the best fir for the company’s growing business.
“We chose Swagelok because of the proven, reliable products with virtually zero failure rate,” he said. “Additionally, Swagelok gives the support we need. When we need something the next day, we can usually get it.”
Sales’ three locations (Chino, Calif., Hayward, Calif., and Las Vegas, Nevada). Brad Harrison, former sales representative, managed the relationship and kept things moving for Creative Bus.
“The product support is always there,” said Mark. “Many times we need product or at least a quote same-day or next-day, Brad and his team have always come through. In our industry, everyone wants their product quickly, especially if you are dealing with a replacement order.”
According to the Creative Bus installers, having tube fittings and other products readily available is key, since about 80 percent of the CNG conversion is tube fitting-related. If Creative Bus Sales has the vehicle in-stock, it takes only about seven business days to convert it to CNG and deliver.
To convert to CNG, Creative Bus installers start with either a Ford E450, Chevrolet C4500 or C5500 chassis and:
• Take out the gas tanks and reprogram the computer
• Remove the gas fuel system, including fuel lines, fuel pump, and gas tank
• Install the CNG tanks, using ½ and ⅜” Swagelok stainless steel tubing, compression fittings, NPT fitting and high-pressure hose
• Mount a high-pressure fuel line to the engine, using ⅜” tubing and compression fittings
• Install a low-pressure vent line using ½” stainless steel tubing from the tanks out to the back of the bus to maintain pressure
Creative Bus Sales technicians undergo rigorous training on the installation process, both to maximize install efficiency and maintain required safety levels. San Diego FST supports this effort by delivering tube fitting installation training every six months to Creative Bus Sales as a value-added service.
“There is risk to what we are doing and safety is our first priority,” said T.J. “We choose to train our installers every six months to keep their skills current. It helps keep our focus on safety as well as increase production.”
Each conversion includes approximately 40-50 fittings and 30-40 feet of tubing. With close to 500 conversions currently on the road, Creative Bus Sales is both growing in reputation and performance, supported by Swagelok products and sales and service.
“We chose Swagelok because the products themselves are reliable and contribute to the overall safety of the buses,” said Mark. “We like to describe our product as `robust’ and to do that we have to ensure that our customers are getting the best, most reliable, and safety technology available. That’s Swagelok."
The Altoona Bus Testing Program of the Federal Transit Administration (ABRTC) is located in Altoona, Penn. It is a performance test that is designed to test buses and collect information on performance and maintenance issues. Testing is performed by staff and is required only for buses to be purchased with federal funds, although many bus companies submit their vehicles voluntarily. The test consists of the following areas:
- Test Bus Check-In- document the ‘as arrived’ condition of the bus
- Maintainability – document accessibility of the components, serviceability and preventative maintenance and time it takes to repair equipment.
- Reliability – documentation of breakdown and repair times during testing
- Safety – document obstacle avoidance level
- Performance – document acceleration, grade ability and top speed capabilities
- Structural Integrity – document the structural stability
- Fuel Economy Test – fuel consumption test
- Interior Noise Test – document interior noise levels and check for audible vibrations
Data collected during the test can be used by purchasers during the buying process to help determine the best vehicle for their needs.