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Back to school.

Carpenter Manufacturing in Mitchell is one of only five school-bus makers in the U.S.

Time to catch that yellow bus again. With summer gone, Indiana students are joining millions of children throughout the world who ride school buses. Wrong.

The school bus as we know it serves just North American youngsters. In foreign countries, students may ride buses to school, but their vehicles are shared with other members of the community. Canada and the United States are the only nations which paint buses yellow.

Even the manufacturers of school buses are fairly exclusive--there are only five in the country, with the future of Wayne Corp. in Richmond undecided at the moment. Carpenter Manufacturing, located in Mitchell, is a 70-year-old school-bus manufacturer. The company was honored when its first all-steel bus, a 1936 model, became part of the Smithsonian Institution's collection. Earlier, school buses were made of wood; before that, students rode in horse-drawn conveyances.

School buses are usually simpler and less expensive than other bus styles. School models, then, may be the choice for community use in poorer countries. Dana Dunbar, Carpenter chairman, says his company has been exporting buses to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Columbia, Venezuela and Bolivia.

School buses are yellow but not necessarily yellow all over. White roofs can lower the interior temperature of a bus by seven degrees. Hot-weather states such as Florida and Georgia find white tops an affordable alternative to air conditioning. Those exported to Central and South America also are usually painted white for the same reason, though bright trim colors are popular there.

A regular 66-passenger school bus costs about $35,000. Flat-nose models are more expensive, and they're considered safer. Without the traditional long bus front, the driver can more easily see a child in front of the bus. Improved visibility for drivers is important because most accidents related to school buses occur outside the vehicles. There will always be driver blind spots; a new mini-Doppler radar system, joint effort of Carpenter and Delco Electronics, should help with the problem.

Why aren't school buses equipped with seat belts? The U.S. Department of Transportation favors compartmentalized seating over belts. In the compartments with high backs, children may tumble but within a limited area. If a bus lands in water, it could be easier to rescue 66 unrestrained children than that many strapped in. Also, in today's buses metal bars are padded to protect against head injuries.

Carpenter regularly uses made-in-Indiana parts and supplies in its buses. Sam Barnett, senior purchasing agent, says, "We try to buy locally and within the state as much as we can."

Most Carpenter buses are equipped with engines from Cummins Engine Co. of Columbus. Transmissions are made by Allison Transmission of Indianapolis, while lighting comes from Grote Manufacturing in Madison. Even the seat padding comes from Indiana, made in Seymour by Lichter Rubber Products.
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Title Annotation:school-bus maker in Carpenter Manufacturing Inc.
Author:Keaton, Joanne
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:Overnight in North Central Indiana: a selection of accommodations.
Next Article:A recovery of fits and starts.

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