Some school buses are starting to hit the roads again as systems debate on whether to open up for the 2020-2021 school year. These effects of Covid-19 have hit hard school bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corp., based in Georgia.
Blue Bird announced that its net income for third quarter was $1.3 million, down $13.3 million from the third quarter of fiscal year 2019.
“The third quarter was a challenge as operations were significantly impacted by Covid-19,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corp. “School shutdowns and shelter-in-place mandates delayed orders through the third quarter and continued supplier disruptions impacted our efficiencies throughout the quarter. We have seen significant stabilization in our supply base since then, although orders have continued to be slow as schools deliberate online versus in-classroom teaching this fall.”
Net sales were $189.2 million for the third quarter of 2020, a decrease of $119.6 million, or 38.7 percent, from the prior year period. Unit sales were 1,948 units for the quarter compared to 3,420 units for the same period last year.
However, there were some high spots during the third quarter. The company successfully moved to a single shift production schedule late in the quarter, which will help drive efficiency and quality improvement.
“Average selling prices per bus increased by more than $7,000, or 9 percent, over last year’s third quarter,” said Horlock. “The increase was due to a combination of pricing and a richer mix of higher-priced vehicles, including electric-powered buses. I am particularly pleased with our alternative-fuel results, which represents a 48 percent mix of our year-to-date sales and backlog, and we are the market share leader in propane, gasoline and electric-powered buses, based on fiscal year vehicle registrations through June. Our overall alternative-fuel market share is very strong at 64 percent.”
The company also has driven down structural costs with its transformational initiatives, which improved profits by $2.3 million in the third quarter and has reduced its structural costs by approximately $50 million since its inception three years ago.
Blue Bird manufactures school buses at two facilities in Fort Valley, Georgia. It also has a joint venture, Micro Bird, that operates a manufacturing facility in Drummondville, Quebec, Canada and a distribution center in Delaware, Ohio.
The company recently delivered two electric school buses to Fort Payne City Schools in Alabama — the first electric buses in that school system’s fleet. These buses were the Blue Bird All American models, equipped with the zero-emission Cummins 100 percent electric PowerDrive System.