From streetcars to school buses, High Point company rolls for 100 years

courtesy: ThomasBuilt Buses—courtesy: ThomasBuilt Buses
ThomasBuilt has been been making school buses in High Point for generations. They celebrate 100 years in business this year.

HIGH POINT — As N.C. kids get off their school buses for the last time until 2017, Thomas Built Buses is celebrating the end of their 100th year in business. Crafted in High Point since 1916, the Thomas Built buses have been getting the nation’s kids safely to school for generations.”The founding family’s legacy is that we still operate under the same simple philosophy: build the kind of bus that we want our own children to ride,” said Caley Edgerly, president and CEO of Thomas Built Buses. “That simple idea drives the way we do business and the way we engineer our buses.”Thomas Built has several manufacturing facilities in High Point. It started out as a small streetcar manufacturer opened by Perley A Thomas. Perley previously worked for the Southern Car Company making streetcars. He went into business for himself when that company folded.”Perley actually manufactured and sold streetcars that ran on the Desire Line in New Orleans, La., around 1924,” said Edgerly. “Those streetcars were the inspiration for the play and the film ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.'”He made streetcars until the depression in the 1930s and then switched to school buses when the North Carolina put out a call for 400 school buses. School buses at that time were made of wood, with wooden and canvas roofing, exactly the way streetcars were being built. Perley bid on the buses and won the job, and his future in school buses began as Perley A. Thomas Car Works.Now a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America, Thomas Built is the leading manufacturer of buses in the country. With thousands of buses on N.C. roads, anyone who has every ridden a school bus has likely done so in a Thomas Built one. The company’s 2,000 N.C. employees are working to make sure its future is just as impressive as its past. They recent implemented a new Buswise Technologies platform for better communication and safety.”Today we provide technologies like 360-degree exterior cameras that provide better visibility to the driver of students around the bus, onboard Wi-Fi, electronic stability control and collision avoidance systems,” said Edgerly.Coming down the road, the company is working on making buses that are more fuel efficient and are cheaper for school districts to own.