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Fleet Overhaul Series, Part 2 of 6: Panel fabrication

A template for a bus body panel that fits over a wheel.

A template for a bus body panel that fits over a wheel.

Here is the second in a six-part series about Fleet Overhaul, the vehicle maintenance centre down at Burnaby Transit Centre. (Check out the first article, which talks about the body shop at Fleet Overhaul.)

Did you know that Fleet Overhaul makes all of the aluminum body panels for the vehicles in the fleet?

We started making our own body panels a long time ago, so we can easily get panels for repair jobs or bus overhauls.

As body, paint, and trim manager Jack McKenna explains, it’s tough for bus manufacturers to build and send you the panels themselves, since they’re either using all the panels they have to build more buses, or they’re just generally busy.

The panel fabrication area on the body shop floor. The blue curtained area houses the plasma cutter.

The panel fabrication area on the body shop floor. The blue curtained area houses the plasma cutter.

As well, at Fleet Overhaul we have a plasma cutter, a special type of metal cutting torch that cuts panels extremely quickly. Jack says that it takes about two minutes to make a panel using our plasma cutter, while older machine cutters take about 15 minutes to do the same job.

There are templates for panels on every type of bus in the fleet – a standard set of panels is often created as a “kit” when a bus comes in for repair or overhauling.

During my tour of Fleet Overhaul, I was lucky enough to see the plasma cutter in action, cutting a panel for the back of a bus, fitting over the rear lights. Here’s a video of Angelo from Fleet Overhaul cutting the panel –you’ll notice that it does take less than two minutes to finish, just as Jack says!

(By the way, for those interested in safety precautions — Angelo is wearing protective glasses as he uses the plasma cutter, and he’s not looking directly at the light as he works.)


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