A Mack 20 seater New York 1900. Note the passenger seat outside the driver. US Vehicles were mostly right hand drive at that stage.
In 1830 Sir Goldworthy Gurney of Great Britain designed a large stagecoach driven by a steam engine that may have been the first motor-driven bus. In 1895 an eight-passenger Benz omnibus, driven by a four-horsepower single-cylinder engine, was built in Germany. Early buses in the United States were operated by sightseeing companies in New York City. One type of these open vehicles built by Mack Trucks, Inc., in 1900 had a nominal seating capacity of 20 with a four-cylinder gasoline engine developing 40 horsepower at street speeds of up to 32 km (20 miles) per hour.
Until the 1920s the technical history of the bus was that of the motor truck, because the early bus consisted of a bus body mounted on a truck chassis. The majority of present-day school buses are made in this way. In 1921 the first vehicle with a chassis specifically designed for bus service was made in the United States by Fageol Safety Coach Company of Oakland, Calif. The widened and lengthened frame was 30 cm (12 inches) lower than a truck frame. In 1926 Fageol developed the first integral-frame bus, with twin engines mounted amidships under the floor. The integral frame utilized the roof, floor, and sides of the bus as structural members.
Other early bus manufacturers were Mack and Yellow Truck & Coach in the United States, both of which built gasoline-electric models. In these buses a gasoline engine drove a direct-current generator, and the output of the generator provided electrical power for the driving motors on the rear wheels. In 1928 transcontinental bus service was initiated in the United States. In 1931 the first rear engine in an integral-frame bus was introduced. Two-stroke-cycle diesel engines were first used in buses in 1938 and are still found in most city and intercity models.
Air suspensions were introduced in 1953 and continue to be employed on integral-frame bus models. They consist of multiple heavy rubber bellows, or air springs, mounted at each axle. The air springs are supplied with air from a reservoir in which the pressure is maintained at about 690 kilopascals (100 pounds per square inch). An advantage gained from this type of suspension is that, as the load increases or decreases, the level and height of the vehicle remain constant. This is accomplished by valves that increase pressure in the air spring. The increased unit pressure multiplied by a nearly constant area gives a greater load capacity.
Unlike the leaf spring but like the coil spring, the air spring is capable of withstanding only vertical forces. Consequently, braking and cornering forces must be absorbed by radius rods. These are sets of links or arms with one end attached to the axle housing and the other end jointed to attach to the body.