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Study of Frontal Impact of a Passenger Bus

Manjunath Rao T S1, Madan J2

1- (Engg) student, 2-Technical Manager (SAS Techno Solutions)
Automotive Engineering Centre
M.S.Ramaiah School of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

In recent times more emphasis has been given to passenger cars and small transport vehicles, but the safety features for
larger vehicles has always been a subject of secondary importance. Hence there exist a tremendous opportunity in improving
the safety levels of the passenger bus. There are many analysis done for rollover analysis, but the study of frontal impact
behavior of the passenger bus is completely ignored. Hence this project is carried out in this direction. This project work is
limited to the study of structural integrity during frontal impact and suggestion of some design changes in order to improve
In the current project work the study of frontal impact of a passenger bus has been done. The bus selected for this
purpose is a 54 seater bus from NEKRTC (branch of KSRTC), as the geometrical data of a passenger bus was provide by
KSRTC. Complete bus structure was modeled using ProE 2001 from the geometrical data collected from the coach building
company. Reverse engineering at certain locations was carried out in order to obtain the geometric data. Further the FE
modeling of the entire bus was carried using Hypermesh. Finally the simulation was carried out using commercially available
software LS Dyna.
From the analysis it was observed that the peak load acts on structural members, making them vulnerable to irregular
load distribution. This led to the implementation of crush initiators, which contributed in reduction of the peak load; thus
concluding with the importance of crush initiators in reducing the peak loads.

1. INTRODUCTION than 80% of drivers die than any other members of the bus.
Vehicle crashworthiness and occupant safety are the In frontal impact scenario more significance should be given
single most important areas of concerns in today’s on structural integrity, and hence this project work is carried
automotive industry. In earlier days the importance was out in this direction.
driven in the way of safety regulations, but nowadays for an The bus selected for crash analysis is a 54 seater bus
automotive company to survive in the market it is very from NEKRTC as shown in figure 1. North East Karnataka
essential to satisfy the safety expectations of the customers. Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC) is the part of
Hence it is more of building a safer vehicle than that of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC)
competitor’s vehicle. In order to satisfy various safety catering to the transport needs of north eastern region of the
regulations, it is very important for the safety engineers to Karnataka state. As we have read in many newspapers and
perform various tests to evaluate the crashworthiness of the articles, where the accident rates due to state run buses are
vehicle, this is usually done in the beginning stages of the exorbitant, hence the bus selected in this project is NEKRTC
vehicle design and development. When it comes to safety bus.
concerns of vehicle crashworthiness, it is the area which
comes under passive safety. Due to advancement in the CAE
tools it is far easier in conducting the crash analysis, which
gives the results that are closely accurate with the physical
test setup. This has got many advantages like cost savings,
speed of analysis, accuracy of analysis and the ability of
performing various analysis with the same model
simultaneously. Thus most of the car manufacturers are able
to justify their product’s crashworthiness even before it is
actually manufactured.
In automotive world more emphasis has been given to
the safety of passenger cars, but seldom is the importance
given to the passenger bus. Hence in this project the
emphasis is towards the frontal impact behavior of a
passenger bus.
Figure 1. NEKRTC Bus
Among all the accidents that take place, frontal impact
has got the major share of 40%. Again in these conditions The coaches built for such buses are not designed with
the injury caused to drivers or the front passenger is various aspects of safety, neither driver nor passengers are
extremely high. Though the damage due to frontal impact of ensured with safety. There exists the tremendous
the bus is lesser when compared to other vehicles, but still opportunities in improving the safety features of this bus. As
the consequences of such impact on drivers are fatal. far as the safety is considered, only the structural safety can
According to the study during frontal impact of bus more be improved. It requires tremendous amount of

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transformation in change in attitude of the Indian passengers, the structures that are located on door side has to be very
who are least bothered about safety and following rules & good. It was also observed that the floor deceleration is bit
regulations pertaining safety standards. Hence the very first higher than with that of the prescribed trolley deceleration
activity will be to improve the structural safety of the vehicle by ECE R80. (Where ECE R80 prescribes 8-12 g of
that comes under passive safety, but still there is great scope deceleration for trolley at 30 km/h speed standardized
for improvement in active safety also. impact)
It should also be observed that we will never notice a Yoshiriro Sukegawa et al [2] have extensively worked
NEKRTC bus driver wearing a seat belt, not only NEKRTC on defining the crash testing methods that has to be carried
drivers but any other state transport corporation drivers for out on heavy duty vehicles. In their work they have analyzed
that matter. Also it was observed that the coaches designed the crash survey reports from 9000 heavy vehicles (buses &
for these buses are not from any professional automotive trucks), from which they have confirmed that more than 90%
designer, most of the design work is carried out using of the crashes occur at the velocity of 30-35km/h for buses
outdated design practices; forget crash analysis, they don’t & 35-40km/h for trucks. It was also found from the analysis
even use a 3D modeling software for designing purpose. All of accident data that frontal impact against the other vehicle
these discussions just highlights the need for more shows the highest rate. As the bus studied in this project
professional design activities with these corporations, which does not comes under large bus category, hence the speed
in turn opens up tremendous opportunity for improved safety that will be considered in our project is 30km/h.
features for these buses. Jeffrey C. Elias et al [3] have worked on a similar
As discussed in earlier sections, frontal impact behavior project, where the analysis is carried out on a school bus.
is not a subject that has been extensively studied. Hence not They have highlighted the fact that a rigid barrier impact is
many people have published the literatures based on this equivalent to two vehicles of similar size impacting at a
study. Vincze-Pap Sándor and Csiszár András [1] have closing speed of approximately 96 km/h. Thus based on this
carried out frontal impact test using FEM simulation and fact the analysis carried out in our project will approximately
comparing the simulation results with the physical test equal to the collision between two vehicles with a closing
carried out on a Hungarian Ikarus bus. They have presented speed of 60 km/h. One design feature that is similar to that
very clearly about the emphasis on the under-structure of our bus (NEKRTC bus) is the mounting of body to the
energy absorption during frontal impact of a bus. Though rails of chassis by a series of clips or clamps as shown in
there were no design changes, but their comparison of both figure 2. The crash analysis carried out on this bus has
the test results clearly focuses on more importance of good revealed the instabilities that occur with such kind of
design of structural elements. They have noted that the mounting of the body, where this non-rigid mounting feature
maximum deformation takes place on the left side of the bus; allowed the bus body to slide forward approximately 92 cm
this is mainly due to the availability of the doors on that side. (36 in.) during impact as shown in figure 3. Hence a rigid
The impact force distribution should also be noted, where type of mounting is desired, thus the type of constraint used
the impact force distribution is not uniform on the both sides in the finite element model (FEM) of the bus is rigid type.
of bus. Hence it is noted that the load carrying capabilities of

Figure 2. Clamp design used in NEKRTC bus

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Figure 3. Coach separated from chassis [3]
The literature reveals the need for full scale frontal
impact analysis to better understand the behaviour of the
structures. Though the fatalities due to the frontal impact of
passenger bus are very high, the scale of such incidents has
not prompted many automotive manufacturers to study such
behaviour. Hence the work here is carried out in order to
study the frontal impact of a passenger bus; also efforts have
been made in order to improve the structural safety.

Figure 5. Bus Structure

2. GEOMETRIC MODEL The geometric modeling of the bus was carried out
As discussed in earlier sections, the bus that has been using ProE 2001 software. In the beginning stages of the
considered for the analysis is a passenger bus plying for model construction, solid modeling approach was adopted.
“North East Karnataka Road Transport Corporation” After which the mid-surfaces of these solid sections were
(NEKRTC), which is the part of Karnataka State Road extracted, as most of the geometrical features of the bus can
Transport Corporation (KSRTC) catering to the transport be defined with thickness, which paves the way for shell
needs of north eastern region of the Karnataka state. All the meshing in the FE model. Most of the body structural
geometric details were obtained from the drawings provided members are steel tubes of square and rectangular cross
by KSRTC; other dimensional details unavailable in the sections as shown is figure 8.
drawings were directly measured. The snapshots of the bus
under construction are as shown in figure 4 and figure 5.

Figure 6. Isometric view of 3D model

Figure 4. Bus Chassis

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time, the type of contact between various parts was node to
node type of contact. For rest of the parts rigid contacts were
defined, which was done by using 1d rigid element.
As discussed in assumptions section, the parts and sub-
systems that don’t have much significance in frontal impact
have been replaced with mass elements at appropriate
places. This is done by connecting the mass elements with
the nodes of the parts by using rigid elements.
Figure 7. Right view of 3D model
The geometric modeling was carried out with the
considerations of following assumptions:
¾ Parts which are not directly related to the frontal
impact or which have no significant effect on the
final output have not been considered.
¾ All the sub-systems that were discarded in design
process have been considered as lumped mass at
appropriate locations.
¾ All structural designs are as per the documents
obtained from KSRTC.

Figure 9. Finite Element Model

Once the creation of finite element model is completed,
the next activity was to create boundary conditions. It is very
important to define the type of contacts between the bus
model and the rigid wall. Hence a contact block was created
wherever the significance of the impact is high as shown in
figure 10 by using “*CONTACT_AUTOMATIC_SINGLE_
SURFACE”. The type of contacts used in crashworthiness
SURFACE”, hence this contact type is selected.

Figure 8. Structure Cross section

2.1 Finite Element Modeling

The FE modeling of the bus is carried out using Ansa,
as Ansa is very good software for shell meshing. Then the
model is imported into Hypermesh for mesh refinement and
creation of 1d Elements as shown in figure 9. The total
elements of the model obtained from Ansa was too high,
hence the areas that don’t have much significance to the final
results have been meshed with 1d elements, for which the
cross sectional properties have been assigned. This helped in
reducing the total elements from 486350 elements to
The next activity was to define the contacts between
various parts and sub-systems. To reduce the total modeling Figure 10. Contact block

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2.2 Units and Inputs
The simulation has been carried out using various
inputs, and units used are as shown in table 1.
Table 1. Units and Inputs
Parameters Units / values used
Length unit Millimeter (mm)
Time 0.2 Seconds
Mass unit Tonnes
Acceleration due to gravity 9.81e+03 mm/sec2
Velocity equivalent at 30 kmph 8.33e+03 mm/sec
Figure 12. Force vs Time Plot


The simulation of the bus is as shown in figure 11 at
different time zones, which was obtained from LS-Post post
processing tool.

Figure 13. Deceleration vs Time Plot

Figure 14. Energy Plot

Impact force on right structural members was higher
Figure 11. Simulation without modification when compared to the left structure. This difference in
impact force is mainly due to the presence of the door
The load plot is as shown in figure 12.The important
opening on the left side of the bus, this difference can be
observation that has been made here is the peak load of 16.6
observed from the simulation as shown in figure 15. As
x 105 kN occurs at 0.06 seconds. The curve trend witnessed
shown in figure 5.8 the load on right structural member is
here clearly shows the time difference between buckling of
twice as much as load on left side, which is around 14000
various parts. The peak deceleration is around 12.5g as
kN. Hence the load carrying capability on the right structures
shown in figure 13. It can be observed that there is a spike in
has to be given more importance in design phase
deceleration between 0.04-0.06 sec, this can be attributed to
peak load acting on the body structural members. From the
energy plot as shown in figure 14 it can be observed that the
kinetic energy drops drastically the moment when the bus
hits the rigid wall. The total energy obtained from the
simulation is well in congruent with calculated values from
the equations as shown below.

Figure 15. Comparison of right and left structure

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Figure 18. Comparison of crush pattern
As shown in figure 19, the load vs time plot for all three
designs have been obtained. The peak load in steel tube
Figure 16. Impact force comparison on right and without crush initiator is around 190kN and the crush pattern
left structure is irregular. The peak load with the single bead design is
When we study the load vs time plot as shown in figure around 160kN and the crush pattern in the beginning stages
12, it is clearly visible that the peak load is occurring at 0.06 of crush is uniform, and at later stages the part starts
secs. As discussed in earlier sections, the trend of curve bending. The peak load with the 3 bead design is around
where the spike occurs is mainly due to the sudden increase 150kN and the crush pattern is very much uniform with this
in load on one part or sub system. When we closely study design. With the 3 bead design there is a drop in 20% of the
the phenomenon with respect to simulation, it is observed peak load when compared to with the normal tube. But we
that the frontal structural members starts carrying this high cannot expect similar percentage of drop in peak load when
load and at the moment these members start buckling under implemented in actual bus; this is because of the absence of
load the peak load drops drastically. The parts subjected to ideal conditions during the frontal crash of the bus. Hence
peak load are as shown in figure 5.9 (parts highlighted with the 3 bead crush initiator design has been implemented at
cursor arrow marks). The peak load can be reduced by key locations of the bus structure where the peak load was
providing crush initiators, which absorbs some amount of occurring as shown in figure 20.
load during crumpling. These design enhancements and its
study is discussed in detail in the following sections.

Figure 19. Load comparison of crush initiators

Figure 17. Parts subjected to peak load


There are many different types of crush initiators,
which help in reducing the peak loads. After comparing to
the various types of crush initiators from [5], bead type crush
initiator was selected for implementation. Bead type of crush
initiators is provided at multiple locations, which in turn
helps in reducing the peak load. Hence a comparison of this
was made to justify the selection of this type of crush
initiators. The comparisons is made by analyzing a steel tube
without crush initiator, with single bead type crush initiator
and with 3 bead type crush initiator as shown in figure 5.12. Figure 20. Implementation of crush initiators
From figure 5.12 it is clearly evident that the 3 bead design
crush initiator is more stable during crush.

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5. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION OF MODIFIED The comparison of load plot for both old design and the
DESIGN modified design is as shown in figure 23. It can be noted that
The simulation of modified structure design has been there is a reduction in peak load; the total reduction is
carried out with the same input details as the one which was around 62000 kN which is around 4% reduction in the peak
carried out earlier. All the input data are same, only the load. As discussed earlier the load curve trend is very much
model has been changed to accommodate 3 bead crush similar to the previous design, this can be attributed to the
initiators. The simulation of the modified bus design is as non-modification of any other design aspect of the bus.
shown in figure 21.

Figure 23. Comparison of load plots

The study of frontal impact of a passenger bus has
suggested many key areas that have to be considered while
designing the structures of the bus. It was also studied for
some of the design changes that could help in improving
structure safety, although these suggestions are at very
nascent stage which needs much finer design refinement in
order to have an optimized solution. It was also evident that
the lack of professional approach towards bus body design
has contributed in unacceptable results during analysis,
which opens up the road towards consideration of many
design improvements. By non-linear analysis conducted on
Figure 21. Simulation of modified bus with crush bus, the following conclusions have been drawn up.
initiators • It has been understood that the load distribution on the
structures are not uniform, which lays down the road to
The load plot which shows the force vs time is as improvement in buckling characteristics of the
shown in figure 22. The important observation that has been structures.
made here is the peak load of 15.9 x 105 kN occurs at 0.06 • A redesign of left structural members is very essential,
seconds. The curve trend witnessed here clearly shows the because of the presence of door opening on this side the
time difference between buckling of various parts. It is also structure is very much weak and it requires proper
evident that the curve trend remains the same from the design in order to improve strength on this side. By
original design; this is because of the design change being doing this the load distribution can uniform on both the
done for only one structural member. The curve trend can sides and it also improves the overall behavior of the
change with more design modifications. bus during the frontal impact
• By having crush initiators, the peak load can be
reduced. This has been achieved by implementing such
designs to some of the structural members, which is
around 4% reduction in peak load. Although there is an
improvement in reducing the peak load, but a design
with much better analysis can improve the situation.
• Absence of structural members that are specifically
designed for absorbing high loads is evidently felt from
the analysis. By having such members the damage
caused to many other parts can be reduced and load
management can be in a much controlled manner.
• The design improvement that has been achieved is just
for few structural elements, if this approach is followed
Figure 22. Force vs Time plot

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for many other key structural members then the design
could be far superior.
• The floor deceleration is around 12g, which is well in
agreement with ECE R80 regulation that specifies the
floor deceleration to be around 8-12g at 30km/hr.
• From the analysis it is very much evident that a holistic
approach in designing of various parts is required. It
can be hereby concluded that there is tremendous
amount of options available for the redesigning of the
bus structures that can significantly improve safety.


[1] Vincze-Pap Sándor, Csiszár András, “Real and

Simulated Crashworthiness Tests on Buses”
ESV 19th Conference, NHTSA, Paper Number
05-023, 2005
[2] Yoshiriro Sukegawa, Fujio Matsukawa,
Takeshi Kuboike, Motomu Oki, “Heavy Duty
Vehicle Crash Test Method in Japan”,
NHTSA, Paper number 98-S4-O-13, 1998
[3] Jeffrey C. Elias, Lisa K. Sullivan, Linda B.
McCray, “Large School Bus Safety Restraint
Evaluation” NHTSA, Paper No. 345, 2001
[4] Mátyás Matolcsy, “Technical Questions Of Bus
Safety Bumpers”, NHTSA, Paper number 05-
0161, 2005 Hoag, Kevin L., (2006),
[5] Willibrordus J. Witteman, “Improved vehicle
crashworthiness design by control energy
absorption for different collision situations”,
CIP-data library technical

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