A new law passed in June will require school buses be driven 250,000 miles before they can be retired and a replacement can be purchased. The bill aims to save $185 million throughout the next five years.
Derek Graham, director of student transportation at the North Carolina Office of Public Instruction, told STN many school buses statewide were coming up for replacement based on the previous requirement that prompted state legislators to act this spring. He added that for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, all buses 20 years of age regardless of mileage are eligible for replacment. This affects 1994 and 1995 model years, respectively.
The previous replacement cycle required buses be driven for 20 years or 200,000 miles before state funds could be used to purchase a newer bus. The new standard continues to require 20 years of service while upping the mileage. Senate Bill 402 also states that no school bus that has been operated for less than 150,000 miles may be replaced, regardless of model year, and buses less than 15 years old may only be replaced if they have been operated for 300,000 miles.
The legislation also allows the State Board of Education to authorize the annual replacement of up to 30 school buses that have safety concerns due to mechanical or structural problems "that would place an undue burden on a local school administrative unit."
Though buses are eligible for replacement when they reach 23 years of age (by model year), school districts currently receive $2,000 for each bus that remains in operation beyond this replacement schedule. These "bonus" funds may be used for the additional maintenance costs of operating buses with higher mileage "or for any other school purpose."
Approximately 14,000 school buses transport about 800,000 students to and from school each day in North Carolina.