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A school bus is a type of bus used for transporting children and teenagers to and from school and school events. The first school bus was horse-drawn, introduced in 1827 by George Shillibeer for a Quaker school at Abney Park in Stoke Newington, London, United Kingdom, and was designed to carry 25 children.[1]

In North America, the school bus is a specific type of government-regulated vehicle distinct from other types of buses. Canada and the United States have specially built and equipped school buses; by law these are required to be painted school bus yellow and equipped with various forms of warning and safety devices specific to them. In Europe and other parts of the world, the buses used for transporting students are more closely related to other types of buses than their North American counterparts.

North America

In the United States and Canada, school buses are almost universally used to transport students. This service is almost always provided without charge to families. In the U.S., the term busing also refers to the transport of students to other than their closest local schools to increase racial integration. Modern school buses may be equipped with amenities lacking only a few years ago such as stereo systems, air conditioning and higher-headroom roofs — although high-headroom school buses have been an option as early as the mid 1950s.

General Statistics

School buses account for an estimated 10 billion student trips each year.[2] Many U.S. school districts purchase or lease the buses and hire their own drivers, while others engage the service of school bus contractors to perform this function. About 440,000 public school buses travel more than 4 billion miles and daily transport 25 million children to and from schools and school-related activities in the U.S. every year. About 54% of all K–12 students in the country ride yellow school buses.[3]


Wayne Works, predecessor of Wayne Corporation, was founded in the United States of America in 1837. By 1886, and possibly earlier, it is known that the company was making horse-drawn school carriages which many people referred to as "school hacks," "school cars," "school trucks," or "kid hacks." ("hack" was a term for certain types of horse-drawn carriages.)

Early school buses primarily served rural areas where it was deemed impractical for the young students to walk the distances necessary to get back and forth from school on their own, and were sometimes no more than a truck with perhaps a tarpaulin stretched over the truck bed.

Wayne Works was one of the earliest school bus companies to offer glass in place of the standard canvas curtains in the passenger area long before many "school" bus companies did in the early 1930s, although Gillig Bros had invented and patented the design long before.[4] Known as the "California top", the design featured a slightly curved reinforced metal roof, with windows separated by pillars at regular intervals, and each window was adjustable by the use of a latching mechanism.

Post-War Growth

Following World War II, there were movements in Canada and the U.S. to consolidate public schools, leading to an increase in demand for school buses. Rapid urban growth also outpaced school construction; coupled with the population expansion brought on by the baby boomers themselves having children, the need for busing within large urban centres in North America became acute.

Transit-Style School Buses

In the 1930s, Wayne Works, Crown Coach, Gillig Bros., and other school bus body companies manufactured some transit-style school buses with a relatively flat front-end design; in present-day nomenclature, they are known as Type D school buses. The first transit-style buses were designed in the 1930s, but the design was popularized after World War II. A factor in the rapid rise of transit-style school bus sales in the 1950s (especially on the West Coast) was the Baby Boom generation. School districts were faced with a rapid rise in student counts and were forced to consolidate, buy larger school buses, or both. As a result, the use of the transit style school bus skyrocketed during the mid 1950s.

Crown Coach built the first heavy duty, high capacity, transit style school coach in 1932 and named it the "Supercoach", as many California school districts operated in terrain requiring heavy duty vehicles. In 1959, Gillig Bros. introduced the rear-engine diesel-powered school bus. The C-180 Transit Coach soon afterwards became the most popular rear-engine transit-style school bus on the west coast.

In 1950, Albert L. Luce, founder of the Blue Bird Body Company, developed a transit style design which evolved into the company's All-American, the longest-running Type D product line among current manufacturers. However, the conventional Type C design with a truck type hood and front end still continued to dominate U.S. school bus manufacturing into the 21st century.


Canadian school buses are very similar to their U.S. counterparts. Many Canadian school buses are manufactured in the United states, and there have been Canadian-manufactured school buses imported into the United States. In French-speaking Quebec, the signage on the outside of the bus is in French; the front and rear legends read "Ecoliers" (French for "Schoolchildren"), and the stop sign legend may read "Arrêt" (French for "Stop"). As of 2009, Canada's only domestic school bus maker is Girardin Minibus. The Corbeil designs made in Canada through the firm's closure in 2008 are now manufactered and sold by Collins in the United States. In Canada, the Blue Bird All American is rebadged as the Blue Bird TX3.


In the current North American school bus industry, there are six active manufacturers. Two of them (Blue Bird, Thomas Built Buses) offer a full range of body configurations. Three (Collins, Girardin, Trans Tech) specialize in small buses, while another (IC) specializes exclusively in full-size buses.

Of the manufacturers that no longer produce school buses, several are wholly defunct (Carpenter, Crown Coach, Wayne) while others have been absorbed into different manufacturers. IC Bus is the descendent of both AmTran and Ward; Collins owns and distributes Mid Bus and Corbeil products. Other manufacturers have moved into other enterprises; Gillig Corporation makes buses for mass-transit buyers, while Kenworth lives on as a manufacturer of Class 8 trucks.

Current Manufacturers
Company Name Location Products Notes
Blue Bird Corporation Fort Valley, Georgia (corporate & assembly)
LaFayette, Georgia (assembly)
Type A
Type C
Type D
Blue Bird is a privately-held company owned by Cerberus Capital Management
IC Bus Warrenville, Illinois (corporate)
Conway, Arkansas (assembly)
Tulsa, Oklahoma (assembly)
Type B
Type C
Type D
IC is a subsidiary of Navistar International.
Thomas Built Buses, Inc. High Point, North Carolina Type A
Type C
Type D
Thomas is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America, LLC (Freightliner)
Collins Bus Corporation South Hutchinson, Kansas Type A
(Collins, Mid Bus, Corbeil)
Collins Bus Corporation is a subsidiary of Collins Industries.
Mid Bus Corporation and Corbeil Bus Corporation are Collins-owned subsidiaries that sell brand-engineered products.
Girardin Minibus Drummondville, Quebec, Canada Type A Girardin is currently the sole Canadian-based producer of school buses.
Trans Tech Warwick, New York Type A
Defunct Manufacturers
Company Name Location Ceased Production Notes
American Transportation Corporation (AmTran) Conway, Arkansas 2002 Marketed school buses as Wards from 1980-1992, purchased outright by Navistar in 1994.
Commercial buses adopted AmTran name in 1980.
Re-branded as IC in 2003.
Carpenter Industries, Inc. Mitchell, Indiana
Richmond, Indiana
Carpenter was shut down in May 2001 by parent company Spartan Motors.
Crown By Carpenter Richmond, Indiana 1999 A 1996-99 re-branding of Carpenter using the rights from the purchase of the Crown Coach name.
The Crown name was dropped from Carpenter for the 2000 model year by Spartan Motors.
Coach and Equipment Manufacturing Penn Yan, New York[5] A manufacturer of van conversions to Type A school buses from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s [6]
Crown Coach Corporation Los Angeles, California
Chino, California
1991 Subsidiary of GE Railcar from 1987-1991
Rights to the Crown name were purchased in May 1991 by Carpenter Body Works.
Gillig Corporation Hayward, California 1993 Ended school bus production in 1993; still produces mass-transit buses.
Hackney Brothers Body Company[7] Wilson, North Carolina c. 1966 Produced Type C school buses on Ford chassis.
Kenworth-Pacific Renton, Washington 1957 Early producer of Type D school buses.
Kenworth subsequently sold their bus tooling and equipment to Gillig.
Les Enterprises Michel Corbeil (Corbeil) St-Lin-Laurentides, Quebec, Canada. 2007 Assets acquired by Collins Industries
Exists today in the United States as Collins subsidiary Corbeil Bus Corporation.
Liberty Bus Lima, Ohio Produced a small number of Type A school buses in early 2000s.
Mid Bus Bluffton, Ohio 2008 Acquired by Collins Bus in 1998.
Mid Bus products are now re-badged Collins models.
New Bus Company[8][9][10] Chickasha, Oklahoma 1989 Produced a small number of Type C and Type D buses in the late 1980s.
Northern Coach [11] Wisconsin Produced a small number of "Northern-Air" Type C buses in the late 1970s.
Superior Coach Company Lima, Ohio 1982, 1985 Superior employees created Mid Bus in 1981 and eventually left the full-size bus market entirely.
Union City Body Company[12] Union City, Indiana 1957 Union City produced conventional Type C buses
Union City now is a supplier of bodies for UPS.
U.S. Bus Corporation Suffern, New York Producer of Type A buses in 1990s and early 2000s.
Ward School Bus Manufacturing, Inc. Conway, Arkansas 1979, 1992 Filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; re-organized as American Transportation Corporation (AmTran) in 1981.
Navistar International purchased AmTran in 1991 and phased out the Ward brand name.
Wayne Corporation
Wayne Wheeled Vehicles
Richmond, Indiana
Marysville, Ohio
Wayne underwent several changes of ownership before ending up as Richmond Transportation Corporation from 1985-92.
Wayne Wheeled Vehicles (the successor to Wayne Corporation) was a subsidiary of Harsco Corporation and ceased operations in 1995.

Industry Contraction

In 1980, there were six major school bus body companies building large school buses in the U.S., producing bodies for chassis from four truck manufacturers, joined by two coach-type school bus builders on the West Coast. With the baby boom years ending, the manufacturing industry faced serious over-capacity as companies vied and competed for lower volumes of purchases by school bus contractors, school districts, and several states which purchased their buses in quantity at the state level.

Ward and Superior

In 1979, Ward Body Works filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was successfully reorganized as AmTran the following year. Superior, under Sheller-Globe, ceased operations in 1982 and again in 1985 after a poorly received redesign of their Type C bus line. Superior lived on, however, as the Type A manufacturer Mid Bus.

Crown Coach and Gillig

On the West Coast, Crown Coach had struggled to survive and was purchased by GE Railcar in 1987. Although an updated model was introduced in 1989-the Supercoach II-the last Crowns were built in March 1991. In May 1991, the rights to the Crown name were acquired by Carpenter.

Gillig introduced the Phantom school bus in 1986 as a replacement for the 42-year old Transit Coach (which was dropped in 1982), but the Phantom did not sell well on a national scale and was dropped in 1993 after none were sold the two years prior; Gillig concentrated on the mass-transit market instead.

Wayne and Carpenter

Due to the increased market competition and financial problems, Wayne Corporation (as Wayne Wheeled Vehicles) ceased operations in mid-1995. Much of the inventory was purchased by Carpenter and used on the newly re-branded 1996 "Crown by Carpenter" lineup; Wayne's former Richmond, Indiana facility was part of the acquisition. Although Crown by Carpenter intitially held its own against other manufacturers, declining sales influenced parent company Spartan Motors to drop the Crown name for 2000, only to completely cease operations in mid-2001 (10 years after Crown Coach shut its doors).

In 2003, a defect in the roof welds was found on all Carpenter-brand buses manufactured in the Mitchell facility between mid-1986 and 1995. A lot of school systems were forced to retire buses early and Carpenter had been out of business for some time, leaving districts no recourse.

Alignment of Chassis Suppliers

In 1998, Freightliner purchased Thomas Built Buses. Although Thomas had one of the largest market shares in the industry, its purchase would have ramifications for years to come. In 1999, Freightliner entered the Type C bus market with the FS-65 chassis. Initially, this was available to all body manufacturers (except for Navistar-owned AmTran), but its availability soon became exclusive to Thomas.

After the 2001 departure of Carpenter, the combinations of Type C buses decreased significantly. In 1992, General Motors had redesigned its B-Series Type C bus chassis. However, GM only made it available on a Blue Bird body. After the deal with Blue Bird ended in 2003, GM was left with no body supplier since the other two manufacturers of Type C buses were owned wholly by competing truck manufacturers. Like GM, Ford's bus chassis had limited availability as the 1990s became the 2000s. AmTran dropped Ford as an option (in favor of International only) in 1998. Thomas dropped its Ford option in 2001, the same year Carpenter closed its doors for good. In 2002, a deal to replace Ford with GM as the Blue Bird CV200's preferred chassis supplier fell through. After 2004, all Thomas conventionals came only with a Freightliner chassis; due to popular demand, the Blue Bird CV200 remained available on a Navistar chassis until the end of 2006.

The Next Generation

In 2004, Thomas introduced the Saf-T-Liner C2, based on the Freightliner M2. At Blue Bird, the Vision conventional was introduced in 2004 on a Blue Bird chassis; with that, Blue Bird became the first American school bus manufacturer to produce both its Type C and Type D chassis in-house. In 2008, a redesigned All American was introduced as a 2010 model, showing the most extensive changes to the Blue Bird body design in over 45 years.

Type A Consolidation

In the Type A industry, 2008 was a year of major changes. Collins, the largest independent manufacturer of Type A buses, purchased the rights to both Mid Bus and the bankrupt Corbeil names. Manufacturing of all 3 product lines was consolidated into the Kansas factory owned by Collins, which leaves Girardin Minibus as the lone Canadian bus manufacturer.


In most cases, school bus manufacturers are second stage manufacturers. However, a few school buses (typically those of Type D configuration) have both the body and chassis produced from a single manufacturer. The North American school bus industry produces buses in four different body configurations, listed below:

Type A ("cutaway van") school buses are the smallest, and are separated into two classes by weight. These are constructed from a bus body placed on a cutaway van chassis with a left-side driver's door. Typical passenger capacity ranges from 16-30 passengers.
  • Type A-1: GVWR under 10,000 pounds
  • Type A-2: GVWR over 10,000 pounds (category created in 2004); A-2 buses typically use a medium duty truck as a donor cab and chassis instead of a full-size van.
  • See also Short Buses
Type B ("integrated") school buses are larger than Type A, with a GVWR over 10,000 pounds. These are constructed from a bus body mounted either to a stripped chassis or to a cowled chassis. Typical passenger capacity ranges from 30-36 passengers.
  • The BE200 from IC Bus is the only Type B school bus currently in production.

Type C ("conventional") school buses have a GVWR of over 10,000 pounds, typically between 23,000 and 29,500 pounds. These are constructed from a bus body mounted to a cowled medium-duty truck chassis usually supplied from another manufacturer. Typical passenger capacity ranges from 36-78 passengers.

Type D ("transit") school buses have a GVWR of over 10,000 lbs, typically between 25,000 and 36,000 pounds. They are constructed from a bus body mounted to a separate chassis. Unlike other types of school buses, the entrance door is mounted forward of the front axle.[13] Typical passenger capacity ranges from 54 to 90 passengers.
Type D buses are often described by their engine placement by their manufacturers and by bus enthusiasts and spotters.
  • front-engine
  • rear-engine
  • mid-engine/amidship (last produced by Crown Coach in 1991)

Short buses

A short bus is typically a Type A bus, shorter than a full-sized school bus. While larger school buses typically transport public school students on high density routes to elementary, middle and high schools, shorter buses are typically used for lower numbers of special education or special needs students who are typically educated in different facilities with resources to meet their needs. As states ban the use of 15-passenger vans for transporting children for school and non-school purposes because of safety concerns, bus-type vehicles are becoming popular out of necessity.

Short school buses are generally the standard eight feet wide, but length is a factor based on their seating capacity. A cutaway van chassis is the most common basis for this kind of bus.[14] The smallest short buses (Type A-1) have a lot in common with vans in their body design. Conversely, the larger short buses (Type A-2 and Type B) are closer in design to larger Type C school buses. Due to their usage in transportation, short buses are often equipped with automated lifts for wheelchair-bound passengers unable to climb steps into the bus.
Although such smaller models of school buses are also used for magnet school programs, often transporting exceptionally talented and gifted students, and for many other special purposes where the volume of riders is low, short buses have become associated in some urban slang usage with riders who have mental disabilities.[15] Private schools also use short school buses because they sometimes have to transport children on parkways. Parkways cannot handle regular sized school buses due to the low bridge heights on those roads.

Safety regulation

Most of the changes made to the American school bus over the past 70 years have had to do with safety, in response to progressively more stringent regulations. Along with federal mandates, more advanced engineering has made school buses safer for drivers and passengers alike. Because of their size, school buses have many blind spots which can endanger passengers getting on or off the bus and people standing or walking near it. This safety challenge is addressed through the design and configuration of a bus' windows, body panels, and mirrors. Controversy exists over the effectiveness of seat belts as a restraint system for school bus passengers.

School Bus Yellow

Most school buses were painted yellow beginning in 1939. In April of that year, Dr. Frank W. Cyr, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York organized a meeting to establish national school bus construction standards, including yellow body paint. It became known officially as "National School Bus Chrome", later renamed "National School Bus Chrome Yellow." The color, which has come to be frequently called simply "school bus yellow", was selected because black lettering on that hue was easiest to see in the semi-darkness of early morning and late afternoon.

The conference met for seven days and the attendees created a total of 45 standards, including specifications regarding body length, ceiling height, and aisle width. Dr. Cyr's conference, funded by a $5,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, was also a landmark event inasmuch as it included transportation officials from all 48 states (at the time), as well as specialists from school bus manufacturing and paint companies. The conference approach to school bus safety, as well as the yellow color, has endured into the 21st century.

Traffic priority

By the mid 1940s, most states had traffic laws requiring motorists to stop for school buses while children were loading or unloading. The justifications for this protocol are:

  • Children, especially the younger ones, have normally not yet developed the mental capacity to fully comprehend the hazards and consequences of street-crossing, and under U.S. tort laws, a child cannot legally be held accountable for negligence. For the same reason, adult crossing guards often are deployed in walking zones between homes and schools.
  • It is impractical in many cases to avoid children crossing the traveled portions of roadways after leaving a school bus or to have an adult accompany them.
  • The size of a school bus generally limits visibility for both the children and motorists during loading and unloading.

Safety Devices

Warning lights

Around 1946, possibly the first system of traffic warning signal lights on school buses was used in Virginia. This comprised a pair of sealed beam units similar to those employed in American headlamps of the time, but with red rather than colorless glass lenses. A motorized rotary switch applied power alternately to the red lights mounted at the left and right of the front and rear of the bus, creating a wig-wag effect. Activation was typically through a mechanical switch attached to the door control. However, on some buses such as Gillig's Transit Coach models and the Kenworth-Pacific School Coach, activation of the roof warning lamp system was through the use of a pressure sensitive switch on a manually-controlled stop paddle lever located to the left of the driver's seat below the window. Whenever the pressure was relieved by extending the stop paddle, the electrical current was activated to the relay.

In later years, electromechanical wig-wag flasher controls were replaced by electronic ones, and the warning lights were increased from four — two front and two rear, all red — to eight — two amber to warn of an impending stop, and two red to indicate a stop in progress, front and rear. Some jurisdictions, such as Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada still do not permit the amber-and-red system; all-red warning systems are still used in such locales. Newer buses with provisions for the amber-and-red eight-lamp system generally use eight red lenses where amber isn't permitted. Plastic lenses were developed in the 1950s, though sealed beams — now with colorless glass lenses — were still most commonly used behind them until the mid 2000s, when light-emitting diodes (LEDs) began supplanting the sealed beams.

Stop arms

During the early 1950s, states began to specify a mechanical stop arm which the driver would swing out from the left side of the bus to warn traffic of a stop in progress. The portion of the stop arm protruding in front of traffic was initially a rectangle with "STOP" painted on it. Today, Canada and US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 217 regulate the specifications of the stop arm as a double-faced regulation octagonal red stop sign at least 45cm across, with white border and uppercase legend. It must be retroreflective and/or equipped with alternately-flashing red lights. Alternately, the "STOP" legend itself may also emit red light.[16]

Retroreflective markings

Building on the longstanding requirement for school bus yellow, many North American states and provinces — Colorado, for example[17] — call for School Bus Yellow retroreflective conspicuity tape on the sides and rear of buses to mark their length, width, and height. This makes it easier in darkness or poor weather for other drivers to see the bus by the light of their headlamps and correctly perceive its size and position. Federal and Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 217 also requires that yellow, white, or red retroreflective be applied so as to mark all emergency exits, so rescue personnel can quickly find them in darkness.[18]

Strobe lights

Some states such as Illinois,[19] as well as some school districts and bus operators also call for strobe lights on the roof of the bus.

Video cameras

During the past decade, video cameras have become common equipment installed inside school buses, primarily to monitor and record passengers' behavior. Video cameras have also been useful in determining the causes of accidents: on March 28, 2000, a Murray County, Georgia school bus was hit by a CSX freight train at an unsignalled railroad crossing. Three children were killed. The bus driver claimed to have stopped and looked for approaching trains before proceeding across the tracks, as is required by law, but the onboard camera recorded that the bus had in fact not stopped.[20]

Structural integrity

As the school bus evolved as a specialized vehicle in the United States and Canada, concerns arose for the protection of passengers in major traffic collisions. A particular structural weak point in catastrophic school bus crashes was the joints where panels and pieces were fastened together.

Longitudinal steel guard rails had been in use since the 1930s to protect the sides of buses, but behind them on the sides and on the roofs, by the 1960s, all manufacturers were combining many individual steel panels to construct a bus body. These were usually attached by rivets or similar fasteners such as huckbolts.

Around 1967, Ward Body Company of Conway, Arkansas subjected one of their school bus bodies to multiple rollovers, and noted separation at the panel joints, as well as pointing out that many of their competitors were using relatively few rivets. This resulted in new attention by all the body companies to the number and quality of fasteners. Wayne Corporation's crash tests showed the joints to be points of weakness no matter how many fasteners were used, and in 1973 the company began building "Lifeguard" buses with single longitudinal interior and exterior panels for the sides and roof. Eliminating the joints reduced the number of points for potential body separation in a catastrophic impact.

The unit-panel construction reduced body weight, fastener count, and assembly time. However, it required very large roll-form presses and special equipment to handle the enormous panels. In addition, the panels had to be cut to exact length for each bus body order, which varied with the intended seating capacity and order specifications. This created a marketing disadvantage as the Wayne Lifeguard buses required greater manufacturing lead time than bus bodies made up of riveted smaller panels.

1977 safety standards

The focus on structural integrity spurred new requirements in the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses, most of which became applicable for school buses on April 1, 1977. Some of these are considered to be the most effective safety upgrades made to school buses, even thirty years after they were first enacted.

Standard No. 217 - Bus Emergency Exits and Window Retention and Release (Effective September 1, 1973) This established requirements for bus window retention and release to reduce the likelihood of passenger ejection in crashes, and for emergency exits to facilitate passenger exit in emergencies. It also requires that each school bus have an interlock system to prevent the engine starting if an emergency door is locked, and an alarm that sounds if an emergency door is not fully closed while the engine is running.
Standard No. 220 - School Bus Rollover Protection (Effective April 1, 1977) This established performance requirements for school bus rollover protection, to reduce deaths and injuries from failure of a school bus body structure to withstand forces encountered in rollover crashes.
Standard No. 221 - School Bus Body Joint Strength (Effective April 1, 1977) This established requirements for the strength of the body panel joints in school bus bodies, to reduce deaths and injuries resulting from structural collapse of school bus bodies during crashes.
Standard No. 222 - School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection (Effective April 1, 1977) This established occupant protection requirements for school bus passenger seating and restraining barriers, to reduce deaths and injuries from the impact of school bus occupants against structures within the vehicle during crashes and sudden driving maneuvers.
Standard No. 301 - Fuel System Integrity - School Buses (Effective April 1, 1977) This specified requirements for the integrity of motor vehicle fuel systems, to reduce the likelihood of fuel spillage and resultant fires during and after crashes.

These new Federal standards brought significant change to the design, engineering, and construction of school buses and a substantial improvement in safety performance. Further improvement has resulted from continuing efforts by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Transport Canada, as well as by the bus industry and various safety advocates.

Blind zones

In the United States, approximately 2/3 of students killed outside a school bus are not struck by other vehicles, but by their own bus.[21]

To reduce the driver's blind zones, more sophisticated and comprehensive mirror systems have been developed. Windshields on almost all Type C and D buses have been significantly enlarged to remove obstacles from the driver's lines of sight.

To prevent pedestrians walking so close to the front of the bus that the hood hides them from the driver, buses are now[when?] equipped with crossing arms which swing out from the front bumper while the bus is stopped for loading or unloading. These force passengers to walk several feet forward of the bus before they can begin to cross the road in front of it.

Another hazardous area is at the loading door; a drawstring or loose clothing may catch on something as a student gets off. If the driver isn't aware, the student may still be attached to the outside of the bus as it begins to pull away. To reduce this risk, school bus manufacturers have reduced the types of handles and equipment near the stepwell area.

Seat belts

Very few school buses are equipped with seat belts, a standard safety feature in cars and light duty passenger vehicles. In 1977, as provided in Federal Motor Vehicle Standard 222, the U.S. Federal Government required passive restraint and structural integrity standards for school buses instead of requiring lap seat belts. In the 1980s, some districts in the U.S. tried installing lap belts and then later removed them, claiming operational and passenger behavior problems. Whether lap belts should be a requirement remains controversial,[22] though they are now required in at least 4 states (New York, New Jersey, California and Florida). School buses in Texas will be required to be equipped with seat belts by 2010/2011.[23] Of the states that equip buses with seat belts, New Jersey requires seat belt usage by riders; in other states it is up to the district whether to use seat belts or not.

Compartmentalization was introduced in 1967, setting the ideal seat back height at 28 inches, though most seat heights are now 24 inches tall. The premise is that surrounding passengers with cushioning to the front and rear provides effective constraint in the event of a collision. Although not an element of compartmentalization, the UCLA researchers who conducted the 1967 tests on school buses concluded that after high back seats, next in importance to school bus passenger collision safety is the use of a three-point belt, a lap belt or other form of effective restraint.

Environmental compatibility

In theory, school buses reduce pollution in the same manner that carpooling does but on a much larger scale; a single school bus can take take as many as 90 cars off the road at one time. However, buses are not a completely pollution-free method like biking or walking Some of the drawbacks involved stem from the idling of buses while waiting for students to be unloaded and loaded at bus stops and at school. Since most school buses burn diesel fuel, people standing or walking near the bus are exposed to exhaust fumes, which are believed to lead to health problems]]

Some buses have been retrofitted with upgraded emission controls and diesel particulate filters, and new buses are progressively cleaner than the old ones they replace as they must meet more rigorous emissions standards regardless of fuel type.

Alternative Fuels

Although diesel engines are the most common in large school buses, alternative fuel sources such as propane, CNG, and hydrogen are available. Blue Bird Corporation has developed an OEM propane option (an industry first) based on the Vision conventional.[24] Compressed natural gas schools buses were introduced by Blue Bird in 1991, and are still an option today using the Cummins ISL-G engine and the All American RE body and chassis.[25] CNG is also available as an option from Thomas Built Buses on the Saf-T-Liner HDX.[26]

Diesel-Electric and Gas-Electric Hybrids

IC Bus, in collaboration with Enova Systems, unveiled the nation's first hybrid electric school bus in 2006 at the New York Association of Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) Show. The hybrid school bus is claimed to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 40 percent compared to ordinary diesel buses.

Eleven states have joined together for an exploratory purchase of 19 school buses from IC Bus. New York, California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Iowa and Washington will be the first states in the nation to receive these diesel electric hybrid school buses.

In 2009, Collins Bus announced the NexBus, the industry's first hybrid electric Type A school bus. The NexBus utilizes a Ford E-450 chassis with technology from Azure Dynamics Corporation.[27]


Usage as school buses

After a school bus has been withdrawn from regular day-to-day service, it may be used as a substitute for newer buses for any one of a number of reasons, usually because a newer bus is being serviced or needs maintenance, or a regular bus is unavailable (often because of its use for another duty, such as transporting athletes to an event). The older buses are still maintained to comply with all applicable safety standards, but sometimes lack features of newer buses such as air conditioning, radios and tinted windows.

A bus is often completely retired from school service when it becomes no longer cost-effective to keep it in reliable and safe condition. However, some transportation services may have a vehicle replacement schedule that calls for a bus' replacement after it is a certain age, even if the vehicle is in good or excellent condition. Many of these retired school buses are sold to such entities as churches, resorts or camps.

Most states require "School Bus" lettering be covered or removed and warning devices disabled or removed. At least one state prohibits non-school buses from being more than 50% yellow.

Other Uses

Conversion and restoration

Some retired school buses are converted to recreational vehicles (RVs); enthusiasts of this type of vehicle conversion are sometimes called Skoolies. Other retired buses are purchased by enthusiasts or collectors for restoration to as-new condition in the same fashion of any other older vehicle.

Former school buses may also be converted into farm utility vehicles for cattle feeding, fruit orchard maintenance and harvest, and other tasks. Most of the roof and body sides are removed, leaving only a cab for the driver enclosed with a rear wall. This creates a truck with an extremely long, flat bed.


Some retired school buses are exported to Latin America, Africa, or elsewhere. They are used as school buses, municipal transport, or for the transport of migrant farmworkers. Once they are exported, their new owners often update the color scheme from school bus yellow to a variety of different colors.


Retired school buses are sometimes entered in special demolition derby or figure 8 racing events. Examples of speedways that prominently feature school bus demolition derbies include Waterford Speedbowl in Waterford, Connecticut and Little Valley Speedway.


Since school buses sold for non-school transport are generally older models, they do not offer occupants the same level of safety performance as newer buses. This relative lack of safety performance came under some scrutiny after the 1988 Carrollton bus collision. It involved a church bus which had been originally built and served as a school bus, and was one of the deadliest bus accidents in United States history. The accident resulted in a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)[28] investigation and report, as well as extensive media coverage and considerable litigation. Subsequently, many federal, state, and local agencies and bus manufacturers changed regulations, vehicle features, and operating practices.

While pre-1977 buses have been phased out of most school usage in many states, buses from before 1977 can sometimes be found in use as church buses, which are bound by fewer regulations. Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia[29] are the only American states where school bus stop laws are similarly applied to church buses if equipped with flashing red lights used on school buses, and operated in compliance with school bus laws. Other states may have vehicles marked church buses, but they have no church bus stop laws similar to school bus stop laws.

Outside North America

Outside of North America, the yellow school bus is not as common; buses used for the purpose of student transport are typically closer in design to mass-transit buses. These may be painted yellow or other similar shades, but school bus yellow is not a government regulation like it is on school buses from the United States or Canada and so is generally seen only on buses imported from North America.


In Argentina school buses have an identification and authorization of government in each city. They are orange and are mostly vans, replacing it with old "collective", used to transport passengers.


In Australia, students who live in outer suburban or rural areas often travel on public buses and trains, or on special routes provided by private bus companies. The school services cross subsidize the regular bus routes. In inner city areas, school students travel on government owned route service buses. Students travel on either a public route bus, or a "school special" service. Some private schools have their own buses which are often provided by a school where a private company is unwilling or unable to provide the service.

New South Wales

In New South Wales, Students in years K-3 get free travel regardless of where they live, students in years 4-6 get free travel if they live further than 1.6km from the school, and high school students get free travel only if they live more than 2km from their school.


In Finland, schoolchildren who live more than 5 kilometers away from the nearest school, or have other significant impediments to going to the school, are eligible to either bus or taxi rides.[30] The school buses and taxis that are used are normal vehicles, typically operated by local companies. Buses that are reserved solely for school busing have "Koulukyyti/Skolskjuts" markings on front and back. School taxis have a triangular sign on the roof. School buses are limited to driving at 80 km/h maximum speed.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, younger students are transported between their homes and schools by "nanny vans". These vehicles are typically van-based and are smaller than a minibus. When nanny vans originated, they were regulated primarily by the schools and the van drivers. Today, in the interest of safety, nanny vans are government-regulated vehicles that run on fixed routes.

United Kingdom

Most UK school buses are ordinary buses that have been brought in for the purpose of moving students to school and back. The buses are not necessarily yellow and can be used for other purposes when not in use for school journeys, though most children use local scheduled bus services. In almost all cases, dedicated school bus services in the UK are contracted out to local bus companies. North American-style yellow school buses (built by European manufacturers) are being introduced under the First Student UK program. A project in West Yorkshire to provide higher-quality school buses with co-ordinated Mybus branding and dedicated yellow buses gained significant mode shift: 64% of primary school users were previously driven by car[31].

Inner London

In the past, buses belonging to the former Inner London Education Authority were purpose-built. Today, in Inner London many school children travel to school using the ordinary bus service as the bus stops are very close together and travel is free using the Oyster card system.

External links


  1. "Stoke Newington Quaker Meeting - Early History."
  2. "School Bus Safety Fact Sheets". Retrieved on December 4, 2005.
  3. "National School Bus Safety Week October 16–22, 2005" (PDF). Retrieved on December 4, 2005.
  4. The Gillig Story
  5. This literature has Coach and Equipment's business address at the time.
  6. This is a website that shows both manufacturers' literature and photographs of their different bus models
  7. This includes city information, and more specific product information
  8. Tris Online: The New Bus Company Enters The Market
  12. brief company history with location information
  13. School Bus Transportation News at STN Media
  14. "Handbook For Purchasing a Small Transit Vehicle". Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Public Transportation (October 1998).
  15. Urban Dictionary: short bus
  16. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 131
  17. Colorado Minimum Standards Governing School Transportation VehiclesPDF (206 KB)
  18. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 217
  19. Illinois school bus safety standards, Sec. 442.615g
  20. National Transportation Safety Board - Highway Accident Report - NTSB/HAR-01/03
  21. "Protecting Children from Their Own Buses by Mark D. Fisher". Retrieved on January 29, 2006.
  22. "School Transportation News". Retrieved on March 13, 2007.
  25. CNG availability is listed among engine options.
  27. "National Transportation Safety Board". Retrieved on December 4, 2005.
  28. "LIS § 46.2-917.1. School buses hired to transport children.". Code of Virginia. Retrieved on December 4, 2005.
  29. Perusopetuslaki 32 §
  30. Executive Summary – Mybus report on West Yorkshire Metro website, retrieved 2009-10-09
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