A kneeling bus is a bus that not only has no steps between the door and the bus floor, but also has an air-adjustable suspension. This feature allows the driver to actually lower the bus to the curb to make entering and exiting the bus much easier. By lowering the bus, the handicapped and elderly are given much easier access to the bus, and even wheelchair access is made easier. The kneeling bus takes its name from the kneeling-like manner in which it lowers itself at the bus stop.
By using an on-board air compressor and air bag suspension, this kind of bus can drop to a much lower position when loading and off-loading passengers. By depressing a button inside of the bus, the operator is able to release air from the front air bag suspension. This allows the kneeling bus to slowly drop down from its normal ride height. Once the passengers have made their way on or off the bus, the switch is released, and the suspension once again fills with air. This brings the bus back to its normal operating height.
Along with the air-lift system, the kneeling bus has no stairs or steps on the interior of the bus to impede traffic. Passengers who use wheelchairs as well as any passenger who may have an impediment which makes climbing steps on a conventional bus difficult can navigate the entrance of a kneeling bus much easier than a traditional bus. Typically, the doors and aisles of a kneeling bus are also wider than the same areas in a standard bus, making access much easier for the handicapped.
Many busing companies performed tests to determine the feasibility of kneeling the buses at every stop or only when a handicapped rider was at the stop. The companies wanted to examine the effects of kneeling the bus on a time frame. While the buses made it more convenient to load and unload, there was also wear and tear on the bus's suspension, extra fuel used in the buildup of air to the system and the aforementioned time-delay problems. The determination to kneel the bus at every stop or only when the driver deemed it necessary was adopted in many areas while others deemed it proper to kneel the bus at every stop, citing that the more expedient loading and unloading time made up for the delay in airing the system up and down.