Andrew Turnbull presents

The History of School Transportation in Mercer County, WV


Technical Information: Deciphering VINs

Blue Bird

school bus

Body numbers

All Blue Bird buses as far back as the 1960s bear an alphanumeric body number on a data plate mounted to the bulkhead above the windshield. The number consists of 5 or 6 digits preceded by an alpha prefix correlated to the manufacturing plant:

B Brantford, Ontario (Canada)
F Fort Valley, Georgia (US)
L Lafayette, Georgia (US)
M Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (US)
V Buena Vista, Virginia (US)
X Apodaca, Nuevo León (Mexico)

Each plant had its own numeric sequence that progressed in parallel until MY2009, when body numbers shifted to a new series starting at 400000 with numbers from different assembly plants interspersed. Body numbers were not correlated to the VIN except on Type D buses on Blue Bird chassis built prior to 1989.


1980-early 1989

Few older Type D buses survive, and little detailed information survives about them. Nevertheless, it is known that Blue Bird adopted the uniform 17-digit VIN format for its Type D products early on, even before the start of the 1981 model year:

1BABZCMA1AF048005

Positions 1-3 and 11: Manufacturer and assembly plant

1BA-F Blue Bird, Fort Valley, Georgia (US)

Blue Bird's Canadian plant in Brantford also built the All American (aka All Canadian) in this timeframe, but I have yet to confirm the VIN format of a Canadian-built bus.

Positions 4 and 6: Model

AC TC2000 FE (1988-89)
BB All American/All Canadian RE
BC All American/All Canadian FE

Position 5: "Series"

Can be seemingly any letter or number. I have no idea what tangible detail the series signifies.

Position 7: Engine

Not an exhaustive list:

A 7.0L V8 Gasoline (Chevrolet)
C 6.6L V8 Diesel (Caterpillar)
M 10.4L V8 Diesel (Caterpillar)
S 5.9L I6 Diesel (Cummins)
W 8.2L V8 Diesel (Detroit)
X 10.4L V8 Diesel (Caterpillar)

Position 8: Brake system

A Air
H Hydraulic

Position 9: Checksum

0-9 or X, calculated from the other digits.

Position 10: Model year

Blue Bird in the 1980s scheduled its model year transitions fairly late, typically between August and November.

A 1980
B 1981
C 1982
D 1983
E 1984
F 1985
G 1986
H 1987
J 1988
K 1989

Positions 12-17: Production sequence

Through the duration of the 1980s, Blue Bird correlated the last five digits of the VIN to the last five digits of the body number. This continued until MY1989, when Fort Valley body numbers were in the 80000 series.


1989-present

In 1989, Blue Bird changed its VIN format to incorporate the chassis number.

1BAADCSA3KF033102

Positions 1-3 and 11: Manufacturer and assembly plant

1BA-F Blue Bird, Fort Valley, Georgia (US)

Fort Valley-coded VINs appeared on all buses built on Blue Bird chassis, regardless of the plant of body assembly.

Positions 4 and 6: Model

AB TC2000 RE
AC TC2000 FE
BB All American/TC3000/TX3/TX4 RE
BC All American/TC3000/TX3/TX4 FE
HC TC1000
KC Vision

Position 5: "Series"

Can be seemingly any letter. Again, I have no idea what tangible detail the series signifies.

Position 7: Engine

Several code letters have been reassigned over the years, as engine options have come and gone:

0 7.2L I6 Diesel (Caterpillar)
6 8.3L I6 Diesel (Cummins)
7 8.3L I6 Diesel (Cummins)
B 6.6L I6 Diesel (Caterpillar) (1992-99); 6.8L V10 LPG (Ford) (2015 on)
C 8.9L I6 Diesel (Cummins)
E 6.8L V10 Gasoline (Ford)
F 7.0L V8 Gasoline (GM)
H 7.3L V8 LPG (Ford)
J 7.3L V8 Gasoline (Ford)
K 7.2L I6 Diesel (Caterpillar)
P 5.9L I6 Diesel (Cummins) (2000-04); 6.7L I6 Diesel (Cummins) (2007 on)
S 5.9L I6 Diesel (GM) (1989-2000); 6.7L I6 Diesel (Cummins) (2018 on)
X 10.4L V8 Diesel (Caterpillar) (1989-91); 8.3L I6 Diesel (Cummins) (2000 on)

Position 8: Brake system

A Air
H Hydraulic

Position 9: Checksum

0-9 or X, calculated from the other digits.

Position 10: Model year

Blue Bird continued to maintain fairly late model year cutoffs into the early 1990s...but this changed as time progressed. By MY1997, new model years started to debut in April of the year before. By MY2002 the cutoff had been pushed forward to February, then 2004 model buses defied logic by entering production in October 2002. By MY2019, new model years were starting to appear as early as August two calendar years before...meaning that Blue Bird's "year inflation" is now the worst in the industry.

K 19892019
L 19902020
M 19912021
N 19922022
P 1993
R 1994
S 1995
T 1996
V 1997
W 1998
X 1999
Y 2000
1 2001
2 2002
3 2003
4 2004
5 2005
6 2006
7 2007
8 2008
9 2009
A 2010
B 2011
C 2012
D 2013
E 2014
F 2015
G 2016
H 2017
J 2018

Positions 12-17: Production sequence

From this point forward, the VIN began to reflect the serial number of the chassis, not the body, bringing Blue Bird into accordance with industry and government conventions. This happened roughly around chassis number 030000.

Blue Bird's chassis numbers are part of a perpetual series that continues from one model year to the next (with a small amount of numeric overlap between years, due to discrepancies between planned and actual production order). Serials racked their way up to 099999 in MY2001, then jumped forward to 200000. The series has continued ever since, and as of 2021 the serials have reached the 380000 mark.



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