Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2

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Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2
Southwest Coach 2984 side.jpg
Front 3/4 view
Thomas C2 interior seats.jpg
Interior view, looking back
Manufacturer Thomas Built Buses (Freightliner)
Assembly High Point, North Carolina
Body and chassis
Chassis Freightliner M2
Related Freightliner M2 106
  • Diesel
    • Cummins ISB 200-260hp (2008-present; CNG option since 2016)
    • Caterpillar C7 (2004-2007)
    • Detroit Diesel DD5 5.1 L I4 (2018-present)
    • Mercedes-Benz MBE 900 (2004-2007)
  • Propane
    • Powertrain Integration PIthon 8.0 L V8 (2014-present)
Width96 in (2,438 mm)
Curb weight 18,000–35,000 lb (8,165–15,876 kg) (GVWR)

The Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 (often shortened to Thomas C2) is a cowled-chassis bus manufactured by bus body manufacturer Thomas Built Buses. Introduced in 2004, the C2 marked the first usage of the Freightliner C2 chassis. While produced largely for school bus use, the C2 is also produced for multiple applications, including specialty and commercial configurations. The C2 is unique in that it is available in capacities up to 81 passengers, the largest of any type C conventional school bus in current production. [1]

Bus Large road vehicle for transporting people

A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry many passengers. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type of bus is the single-deck rigid bus, with larger loads carried by double-decker and articulated buses, and smaller loads carried by midibuses and minibuses while coaches are used for longer-distance services. Many types of buses, such as city transit buses and inter-city coaches, charge a fare. Other types, such as elementary or secondary school buses or shuttle buses within a post-secondary education campus do not charge a fare. In many jurisdictions, bus drivers require a special licence above and beyond a regular driver's licence.

Thomas Built Buses

Thomas Built Buses, Inc. is an American bus manufacturer. Headquartered in High Point, North Carolina, the company is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America. While best known for its yellow school buses, Thomas also produces activity buses/MFSAB, commercial buses, and bus bodies for aftermarket conversion.

Freightliner C2 Type of school bus

The Freightliner C2 is a Type C conventional bus chassis manufactured by Daimler Trucks North America, used for school bus applications. It was introduced in 2004 as the replacement for the FS-65. The C2 uses the hood, firewall, steering column, and dashboard of the Freightliner Business Class M2 medium-duty conventional.


Derived from the Freightliner Business Class M2 medium-duty truck, the C2 consolidated the Saf-T-Liner Conventional and Saf-T-Liner FS-65 conventionals; the latter was produced concurrently with the C2 until December 2006. [2] While produced with a full-length hood, the C2 adopted other design elements of the Vista conventional to improve loading-zone visibility.

Freightliner Business Class M2

The Freightliner Business Class M2 is a model range of medium-duty trucks produced by Freightliner. In production since June 2002, the M2 was the successor to the FL-Series introduced in the 1990s. In terms of size, the M2 is produced in Class 5 through Class 8 GVWR ratings, competing primarily against the International Durastar and the Ford F-650/F-750 Super Duty.

Thomas Vista

The Thomas Vista is a model line of buses that was manufactured by Thomas Built Buses from 1989 to 1998. Produced nearly exclusively as a school bus, the model line was also sold in commercial-use configurations. To improve forward sightlines for drivers, the chassis of design of the Vista combines elements of conventional buses and transit-style school buses.

Thomas Built Buses manufactures the C2 in High Point, North Carolina. [3]

High Point, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

High Point is a city located in the Piedmont Triad region of the U.S. state of North Carolina. Most of the city is located in Guilford County, with portions spilling into neighboring Randolph, Davidson, and Forsyth counties. High Point is North Carolina's only city that extends into four counties. As of the 2010 census the city had a total population of 104,371, with an estimated population of 108,629 in 2014. High Point is currently the ninth-largest municipality in North Carolina, and the 259th largest city in America.


Thomas Saf-T-Liner FS-65, predecessor of the Saf-T-Liner C2 Thomas FS65 NYC.jpg
Thomas Saf-T-Liner FS-65, predecessor of the Saf-T-Liner C2

Following the introduction of the Freightliner Business Class M2 medium-duty truck in 2002 as the replacement for the FL-Series, Freightliner began work on an all-new bus chassis based on the M2 to replace the FS-65 bus chassis. As the parent company of Thomas Built Buses, Freightliner sought to pair the new bus chassis together with a new Thomas body, allowing the bus company to update its Saf-T-Liner Conventional bus body for the first time since 1962.

Freightliner FS-65

The Freightliner FS-65 is a cowled bus chassis that was manufactured by Freightliner from 1997 to 2007. Derived from the Freightliner FL-Series medium-duty trucks, the FS-65 was produced primarily for school bus applications, though commercial-use buses and cutaway-cab buses were also built using the FS-65 chassis.

In 2004, in preparation for the C2, Thomas completed construction on a second production facility in High Point, North Carolina, adding 275,000 square feet of production capability. [3] Following the introduction of the C2, its Saf-T-Liner FS-65 predecessor remained in production through the end of 2006, outliving the medium-duty FL-Series by nearly three years.

Freightliner Business Class (FL-Series)

The Freightliner Business Class (FL-Series) is a range of medium-duty trucks that was assembled by the American manufacturer Freightliner Trucks from 1991 to 2007. The first medium-duty trucks sold by the company, the Business Class was sold as both a straight truck and a semitractor. During the late 1990s, the Business Class would become popular in bus applications, in both cowled-chassis and cutaway-cab configurations.

In October 2012, Thomas delivered its 50,000th Saf-T-Liner C2 to Dean Transportation of Lansing, Michigan.

Lansing, Michigan State capital and city in Michigan, United States

Lansing is the capital of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is mostly in Ingham County, although portions of the city extend west into Eaton County and north into Clinton County. The 2010 Census placed the city's population at 114,297, making it the fifth largest city in Michigan. The population of its Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was 464,036, while the even larger Combined Statistical Area (CSA) population, which includes Shiawassee County, was 534,684. It was named the new state capital of Michigan in 1847, ten years after Michigan became a state.

In June 2018, the 100,000th Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 was delivered to Montgomery County Public Schools in Virginia. [4]


2013 Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 in Virginia Thomas SafTLiner C2 RF.jpg
2013 Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 in Virginia

Design and manufacture

As the Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 marked the first completely new bus body for the company since 1962, Thomas redesigned a number of its manufacturing techniques coinciding with its introduction.

To minimize the number of rivets and welds (a weak point of structural integrity on a bus body), adhesive bonding was used to complete a number of body joints. In the cases where fasteners are needed, self-piercing rivets are used. These engineered fasteners join layers of metal together without punching completely through the bottom layer, thus reducing the likelihood that rivets will become the source of leaks in the future.

To simplify vehicle maintenance, the electrical system of the C2 was redesigned over previous buses. In place of individually wired circuits, the C2 uses multiplexed wiring. With the system, switches on interior control panels can be removed and rearranged to suit the driver without any rewiring or reprogramming.


Cummins ISB6.7 in a Saf-T-Liner C2 Thomas C2 engine compartment view.jpg
Cummins ISB6.7 in a Saf-T-Liner C2

As with all conventional-style school buses, the C2 is derived from a cowled-chassis conventional; the C2 uses the Freightliner C2 variant of the M2. As with 2000s and 2010s industry practice in school bus manufacturing, chassis and body manufacturers are paired, with Freightliner and Thomas developing the C2 as an integrated vehicle (the Freightliner grille badges are replaced with Thomas badges).

At its launch, Mercedes-Benz MBE diesel engines were the standard engines, with optional Caterpillar C7 and Cummins ISB diesels. In 2008, the Cummins ISB6.7 replaced the MBE900 as the standard engine, with the C7 discontinued. From 2010 to 2018, the sole diesel engine in the Thomas C2 was the Cummins ISB6.7; for 2018 production, the Detroit Diesel DD5 becomes an option. [5]

The C2 comes standard with an Allison 2500 automatic transmission with an Allison 3000 automatic transmission as an option. The Saf-T-Liner C2 is the only school bus in North America offered with a manual transmission; a rarely ordered option is a Fuller 6-speed transmission.

Caterpillar C77.2 L (441 cu in) turbo I6dieseloptional engine, discontinued after 2008Allison 2500 automatic

Allison 3000 automatic

Fuller 6-speed manual

Cummins ISB6.76.7 L (409 cu in) turbo I6diesel


available 2009-present; produced with diesel-electric powertrain from 2009 to 2013
Detroit Diesel DD55.1 L (313 cu in) turbo I4dieseloptional engine, entering production 2018
Mercedes-Benz MBE9004.2 L (259 cu in) turbo I4 (MBE904)

4.8 L (293 cu in) turbo I4 (MBE 924)

6.4 L (388 cu in) turbo I6 (MBE906)

7.2L turbo I6 (MBE 926)

dieselstandard engine at launch, discontinued after 2009
Powertrain Integration PIthon8.0 L (487 cu in) OHV V8propane/LPG Gasolineavailable 2014-present


Rear view, Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 (2004-2007) Thomas C2 rear.jpg
Rear view, Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 (2004-2007)

In a break from traditional bus body design, as body manufacturers acted as second stage manufacturers adapting the body to the chassis, in the design of the C2, Freightliner-owned Thomas Built Buses designed the body and chassis of Saf-T-Liner C2 as fully integrated components. A separate body from the Saf-T-Liner EFX/HDX and Minotour, the C2 body shares no parts with its Saf-T-Liner Conventional/FS-65 predecessor.

While Freightliner has also produced cutaway-cab buses derived from the M2 for commercial/transit use, Thomas Built Buses is the only manufacturer to produce a cowled-chassis bus body derived from the M2. Coinciding with the shift to the Freightliner M2 cowl, several changes were made to improve the functionality over its predecessor. Most visibly, to improve aerodynamics, the traditional multipane vertical windshield was replaced by a sloped single-piece curved piece of glass (allowing the use of the stock windshield wipers). [6] Above the windshield, the front bodywork matches the windshield slope; to further improve aerodynamics, the warning lamp lenses are faired into the body (where allowed by regulations).

On the rear of the C2, the body also used flush-mounted glass and warning-lamp lenses. While not substantially physically taller than its predecessor, Thomas visually extended the height of the C2 with larger passenger windows than previous school buses, along with larger exit doors.

On the exterior, the C2 has largely remained the same throughout its production run. In late 2007, the passenger windows saw a minor change, with a shift to equal-size window sashes (previously, the top half was larger). In the rear, the taillights were redesigned and enlarged, later becoming a standard design for all Thomas buses. To improve driver sightlines, the mirror bracket for the passenger-side rear-view mirrors was extended forward.

In the interior of the C2, Thomas made many advancements in an effort to maximize parts compatibility between the bus body and donor chassis. In previous conventional-style school buses, from the firewall rearward, only the steering column and instrument cluster were used. With the interior of the Thomas C2, the dashboard of Freightliner M2 is used in its entirety, adopting only minor changes (the ignition switch was required to move to the center of the dashboard, due to a driver control panel replacing the driver-side door).

Along with the optimization of aerodynamics, the body of the Thomas C2 also optimized driver visibility. Following the redesign of the windshield, the entry door was repositioned, creating a large window between the entry door and windshield to view sightlines in the loading zone (a feature adopted from the Thomas Vista and nearly all small school buses); a smaller quarter window was located forward of the driver's sliding window. In comparison to other Thomas buses, the C2 has enlarged passenger windows and larger emergency exits. [7]

While initially equipped with an air-operated entry door, in 2012, an electric-operated entry door became offered as an option. Since 2016, a manually operated passenger entry door was added as an option.[ citation needed ]


2018 "Jouley" prototype, electric-powered Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 school bus Thomas Saf-T-Liner eC2 Jouley - Front and right side IAA 2018.jpg
2018 "Jouley" prototype, electric-powered Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 school bus

Other uses

Alongside its yellow school bus configuration, Thomas Built Buses produces multiple configurations of the Saf-T-Liner C2, including MFSAB versions (activity/childcare versions), along with the Transit Liner C2 commercial-use bus. Through aftermarket manufacturers, the C2 also serves as a donor vehicle for multiple types of specialty vehicles derived from bus bodies. [8]

Alternative fuel/hybrid/electric powertrains

In 2007, Thomas introduced a hybrid-electric version of the Saf-T-Liner, named the C2e. Designed as a parallel hybrid, the C2e retains the Cummins ISB engine, adding a lithium-ion battery pack with an electric motor/generator. In the summer of 2013, Thomas removed the C2e product literature from their website, marking its discontinuation.

In May 2014, Thomas Built Buses began production of a propane-fueled version of the Saf-T-Liner C2. [9] Powered by a 339 hp 8.0L V8, the C2 Propane is paired with the Allison 2300PTS automatic transmission. The engine is designed by Powertrain Integration (an OEM supplier to General Motors) with the 8.0L V8 named the PIthon. [10]

In 2016, a compressed natural gas (CNG) variant of the Saf-T-Liner C2 was released. The first Type C (conventional-style) school bus produced with a CNG fuel system, the Saf-T-Liner C2 CNG is powered by a version of the Cummins ISB 6.7 engine. [11]

In late 2017, Thomas unveiled a battery-powered prototype of the Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2; called "Jouley" (after the unit of energy), the prototype previews an all-electric C2 intended for production during 2019.[ citation needed ]

Comparable products

See also

Freightliner C2

Related Research Articles

School bus Type of bus

A school bus is a type of bus owned, leased, contracted to, or operated by a school or school district. It is regularly used to transport students to and from school or school-related activities, but not including a charter bus or transit bus. Various configurations of school buses are used worldwide; the most iconic examples are the yellow school buses of the United States and Canada.

IC Bus

IC Bus is an American bus manufacturer that produces yellow school buses and commercial-use buses primarily for the United States and Canada, with limited exports outside North America. Headquartered in Lisle, Illinois, IC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Navistar International. The company was established by Navistar in 2002 through a reorganization of its subsidiary bus manufacturer American Transportation Corporation (AmTran). Through AmTran, IC traces its roots back to the 1933 founding of Ward Body Works in Conway, Arkansas.

The Chevrolet and GMC B series is a series of cowled chassis that were produced by General Motors, primarily fitted with school bus bodies throughout its production. Based on the medium-duty trucks produced by the Chevrolet and GMC divisions of General Motors, the B series was produced in three separate generations; GMC initially produced its own version separate from Chevrolet. Introduced in 1966, the B series was redesigned in 1984 and 1992 as a 1993 model.

Thomas Saf-T-Liner

The Thomas Saf-T-Liner is the name of the transit-style school bus product line produced by Thomas Built Buses. Introduced in 1978, the Saf-T-Liner marked the transition to in-house chassis production by Thomas. In addition to school bus applications, variations of the Saf-T-Liner have been produced as activity buses, specialty vehicles, and commercial/transit buses. It can also be used to describe the Saf-T-Liner C2 or Saf-T-Liner FS-65, but they are not considered part of the Saf-T-Liner family.

Gillig Transit Coach School Bus

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Blue Bird Vision

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International 3300

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Blue Bird All American

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Thomas Minotour

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Crown Supercoach

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Ford B series type of bus

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The Wayne Lifestar is a product line of buses that was manufactured and marketed by Wayne Corporation and its successor company Wayne Wheeled Vehicles from 1986 to 1995. Produced nearly exclusively in a school bus configuration, the Wayne Lifestar used a transit-style body configuration with a front-engine chassis. Marking the return to transit-style production, the Lifestar adopted the single-piece body stampings of the Wayne Lifeguard in its construction.


  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 20, 2010. Retrieved February 20, 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. 1 2 "Company History | Thomas Built Buses". Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  4. "Thomas Built Delivers 100,000th Saf-T-Liner C2 School Bus - Management - School Bus Fleet". Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  5. "Thomas Built Buses Debuts First Saf-T-Liner C2 School Bus Equipped With Detroit DD5 Engine | Thomas Built Buses". Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  8. "All Thomas Buses - Thomas Built Buses". Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  9. "New Propane-fueled Saf-T-Liner C2 in Production at Thomas Built Buses - Bus Report: May 2014 - Thomas Built Buses". Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  10. "8.0L PIthon engine to power Thomas Built propane bus - Alternative Fuels - School Bus Fleet". Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  11. "Saf-T-Liner C2 (Type C) Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) - Green Bus - Thomas Built Buses". Retrieved June 30, 2016.