Thomas Built Buses


  • 1916: Perley A. Thomas Car Works was opened by a Canadian-born car designer who had recently lost his job as chief engineer when the Southern Car Works in High Point closed.
  • 1920s and 1930s: During the 1920s and 1930s Perley A.Thomas Car Works produced and more than 400 streetcars. Some of the cars built in the 1920s are still in operation today in New Orleans. Thomas designed the streetcar line named Desire, made famous by playwright, Tennessee Williams.
  • 1936: The company’s first school bus rolled off the assembly line.
  • 1938: The company introduced the first welded all-steel bus body.
  • 1958: Perley A.Thomas died at the age of 84.
  • 1962: A second manufacturing plant opened in Woodstock, Ontario.
  • 1972: The company name changed to Thomas Built Buses.
  • 1978: Thomas introduced its first bus chassis and produced a transit-style bus.
  • 1980:The company entered the commercial transit market.
  • 1998: Thomas Built Buses became a wholly owned subsidiary of Freightliner and a part of DaimlerChrysler AG.
  • 1999: A new plant was opened in High Point.
  • 2000: A new facility was opened in Jamestown.
  • 2004: Workers vote to become United Auto Workers Union members.
  • Feb 2005: Employees voted 59 percent to 41 percent for union representation, with more than 1,200 workers participating in the June 29th vote. By electing to form a UAW chapter, Thomas Built workers will become one of the few unionized plants in the Triad.
  • July 2005: N.C. Commerce Department allows Thomas Built another year to create an additional 53 jobs to complete the 178 jobs required under the$1.5 million incentives grant.
  • 2006: Celebrates 90th anniversary. Announces plans for a $10.3 million renovation to its Courtesy Road plant.
  • April 2007: Freightliner lays off more about 2,000 employees at the Rowan County factory and 4,000 nationwide.
  • 2008: Friday, Oct. 31: More than 200 Thomas Built Bus employees could lose their jobs after a drop in demand for new school buses produced fewer orders for the company. Announces plans to cut up to 195 hourly workers and 10 salaried workers.
  • Jan 2009: Freightliner cuts 2,137 N.C. jobs. The layoffs will affect plants in Gastonia and Mount Holly in Gaston County and Cleveland in Rowan County. The cuts will take effect March 13. Cuts include nearly 600 in Mount Holly and 275 at Freightliner’s Gastonia Components and Logistics Plant.
  • Mar 2009: Announces plans to lay off another 500 workers in Rowan County and Gastonia on May 8. It’s the latest round of job cuts to hit the region from the company, which will now top 2,600 layoffs this year.
  • Nov 2009: Lost a bid for as many as 900 new buses to competitor White’s International Trucks, which will build them in Tulsa, Okla.
  • Jan 2010: Kelley Platt becomes president with the responsibility for the entire school bus business. Platt Joined Trucks North American in 1989. She succees John O'Leary, who was the first president outside the local Thomas family.
  • April 2010: Thomas Built releases hybrid school bus onto the market. The bus uses a regenerative technology that cuts the amount of fuel by 30 percent by using some electrical power.
  • Sept 2010: Begins deliveries of 20 Saf-T-Liner C2e hybrid school buses to Kentucky schools.
  • Mar 2011: Thomas Built becomes the first school bus manufacturer to achieve zero-waste-to-landfill operations.
    Zero-waste-to-landfill status means that everything received or produced by the company is used, reused, recycled or sold, with nothing sent to a landfill.
  • Aug. 2011: The company said layoffs will begin Aug. 26. 60 jobs will be eliminated.
    Thomas Built Buses said it is reducing its staffing because of a decline in bus purchases. Company president Kelley Platt said the company works to balance reductions in staff with reduced hours for workers and plant shutdowns.
  • Oct 2011: Parent company, Daimler says more than 1,800 buses are being recalled to repair a faulty part. The the recall involves clamps on engines supplied for the buses by Cummins Inc.
  • Feb 2012: Company announces they are stepping up production and adding 50 jobs company wide. The company employs about 1,300. Thomas Built was recognized by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources as a 2011 Environmental Steward
  • Apr 2012: Parent company, Daimler announced that it will shut its Setra of North America plant, located on High Point Road. The company sold 2.1 million vehicles in 2011 and employed 271,000 people, with manufacturing facilities in 17 countries.
  • Oct. 2014: Archdale City council and Randolph County Commissioners voted to approve more than $66,000 in economic incentives for Thomas Built Buses.The company received a total of $373,000 in incentives from Guilford County, High Point, Archdale and Randolph County.Thomas Built Buses announced an investment of $11,800,000 to add additional capacity and up to 236 new jobs to the company’s Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner® C2 (yellow school bus) operations in High Point.
  • Mar. 2016: The companyannounced plans to hire 200 people for its manufacturing operations in High Point. The company will add a second shift at its Saf-T-Liner C2 Plant to meet increased demand for the product.
  • June 6, 2016: Freightliner announced that it will lay off about 800 workers in Gaston County as part of an international reduction in workforce.
  • July 15, 2016:The hiring expansion announced in March is completed with the addition of 236 full-time positions. Thomas Built Buses now employs about 1,850 at the High Point/Archdale plant.
Compiled by Diane Lamb, News & Record researcher
Source: News & Record archive, High Point Enterprise, Triad Business Journal

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