School Bus Types

{slide=What does the term Type A school bus mean?}



The Type A school bus is one of seven vehicle types that can be manufactured to federal motor vehicle safety standards for school buses. Traditionally, it consists of a bus body constructed upon a cutaway front-section vehicle with a left side driver's door, designed for carrying more than 10 persons. This definition includes two classifications: Type A-I, with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or less, and a Type A-2, with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or more. However, the new AE Series introduced by IC Bus in the fall of 2010 is a fully-integrated Type A school bus body and chassis.Type A school buses meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses. These buses have traditionally referred to as "the short bus," a negative connotation denoting the fact that many transport students with disabilties. But today, Type As are just a frequently used for regular route transportation, albeit that of a smaller busload of children to, say, a neighborhood school. {/slide}

{slide=What is a Type B school bus?}

ic_200bThe Type B school bus consists of a bus body constructed and installed upon a front-section vehicle chassis, or stripped chassis, with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds, designed for carrying more than 10 persons. Part of the engine is beneath and/or behind the windshield and beside the driver's seat. The entrance door is behind the front wheels. Type B school buses meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses. These buses, which are more rare on today's roads and are designed for specific school district needs, falls squarely between a Type A school bus and Type C school bus in size.  {/slide}

{slide=Aren't Type C school buses the "original" school bus?}

type_cSort of. The Type C school bus, also known as a "conventional," is a body installed upon a flat-back cowl chassis with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds, designed for carrying more than 10 persons. All of the engine is in front of the windshield and the entrance door is behind the front wheels. Type C school buses meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses. Type Cs are the traditional school buses depicted in movies and on TV shows and has become as synonymous with the U.S. public education system if not more so than the little red school house and the apple on the teacher's desk of yesteryear. Increasingly, these buses are also equipped with wheelchair lifts to accomodate students with disabilities. But, to be technical, the first school buses were called cowls, basically enclosed horsedrawn carriages that evolved into motorized vehicles in the early 20th century.{/slide}

{slide=I see many school buses on the road that resemble transit buses. What are these?}

bus_bluebird_transitThis is the Type D school bus, a transit-style vehicle with its body installed upon a chassis, with the engine mounted in the front, midship, or rear with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds, and designed for carrying more than 10 persons. The engine may be behind the windshield and beside the driver's seat; it may be at the rear of the bus, behind the rear wheels; or midship between the front and rear axles. The entrance door is ahead of the front wheels.Type D school buses meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses. [Editor's note: Type D school buses are referred to as RE for "rear-engine," and FE for "foward engine, or FC for "forward control" ] {/slide}
{slide=Why do some school buses look different than others, for example in color?}

Multifunction School Activity Bus, or MFSABYou're referring to the Multifunction School Activity Bus, or MFSAB, a vehicle sold for purposes that do not include transportation between home and school for K-12 students. Since they are not intended to be used for picking up or discharging students on public roadways, MFSABs are exempt from the traffic control requirements and devices - stop arm, flashing lights - designed to control traffic. While the MFSABs are exempt from the traffic control requirements, they are required to comply with all school bus crashworthiness standards, all other requirements in the school bus crash avoidance and conspicuity safety standards, and all post-crash school bus standards. Schools and school districts are specifically prohibited from using MFSABs to transport school children in regular route school bus transportation service. These buses are often used for activity and sports trips or for Head Start transportation.{/slide}

{slide=Are there other vehicles that can be used for school transportation? Vans?}
apv_libertyAn Allowable Alternate Vehicle is a van that meets all federal school bus crashworthiness standards, but does not meet conspicuity regulations or traffic control standards, i.e. flashing red lights, school bus yellow paint and left side stop arm. These school vehicles secure passengers better than a regular van in the event of a rollover crash. Federal regulations for Head Start transportation require that local agencies bus students on these AAVs or an MFSAB.

metrovan_usbusMeanwhile, a school van is a regular van converted to full school bus specifications. Major alterations are made to the vehicle including cutting the roof off and welding in a full roll cage, along with dozens of other major alterations. When complete, the vehicle rides like a regular van, but meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses.

large_pass_vanA non-conforming van is a vehicle which does not conform to the applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses. Most 15-passenger vans are little more than cargo vehicles converted to passenger application. Most do not even have the basic safety features of traditional passenger vehicles.{/slide}

Training Opportunities

Public school districts as well as private school bus companies have employed these policies for decades, in which regular service intervals check for potential problems besides simply changing the oil and making sure the tire pressure is correct. But as the vehicles have evolved so, too, have the responsibilities of vehicle technicians. Today's school buses utilize intricate computer programs to run virtually every function, from the engine to brakes to lighting. And the advent of GPS, routing and maintenance software has the capability to provide in depth vehicle diagnostics. This requires technicians to obtain advanced certifications from such organizations as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, which developed seven tests specific to school buses maintenance issues.

Just as paramount is ongoing training of both technicians and certified school bus inspectors. The National Association for Pupil Transportation holds a competition each year to select the nation's best school bus professionals in these categories. The event also provides training on the latest mechanical issues related to school buses and networking opportunities for participants. NAPT also offers maintenance-specific courses as part of its professional development series.

Additionally, resources exist from at the bus OEM, dealer and product and service vendor levels, perhaps the best place to turn for technical expertise. The School Bus Manufacturers Technical Council at the National Association for State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services exists to advise school bus operators on the latest vehicle design and maintenance issues to increase student safety.

Most states also have at least one school transportation association that communicates news and trends provides training to its members. Several even have dedicated school bus maintance associations.


Web Resources

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides usefual data to help school transportation operators track recent recalls and compliance tests for certain vehicles and related components to keep school buses operating in the best shape possible. These links are below as are links to bus testing facilities and labs

NHTSA Technical Service Bulletin Database: Using a "drill down" search method, users may select the type of search (child seats, tires, equipment, or vehicles) then choose a year from the drop-down list. The query returns a list of Makes for a chosen type and year, etc. Includes Technical Service Bulletins for some school bus models.

NHTSA Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance: This database allows users to search for vehicles that have been compliance tested to federal motor vehicle safety standards. Uses a "drill down" search method to identify for FVMSS, or by year, make and model. Includes several school bus brands.

NHTSA Recall Campaigns Database: Using a "drill down" search method, users may select the type of search (vehicle, child seats, tires, or equipment) then choose a year from the drop-down list. The query returns a list of Makes for a chosen type and year, etc. Includes some school bus models. Identifies number of units recalled, NHTSA Campaign ID number and component that was recalled.

Bus and Component Testing

The Pennsylvania Transportation Institute

Altoona Research and Bus Testing Center

Federal Transit Administration Bus Testing

49 CFR 665 Regulation Relating to Federal Bus Testing [pdf]

University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute

Virginia Tech Transportation Research Institute


Life-Cycle Assessment of Energy and Environmental Impacts of LED Lighting Products Part 2: LED Manufacturing and Performance
U.S. Department of Energy Pacific Northwest
Study of the environmental effects of LED manufacturing and usage. The report claimed that LEDs are "substantially more environmentally friendly" than incandescent lights and consume five times less electricity.


School Bus Preventative Maintenance: Instruction Manual for School Bus Fleets (2nd Edition)
By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Rush Truck Center of Salt Lake City
An overview of the manual that covers such topics as: basic procedures, creating a PM schedule, PM intervals, annual PM, training the technician, documenting processes, and analyzing data.


Preventative Maintenance Inspections

Perhaps the most important safety aspect that school districts and school bus companies can provide students is ensuring that the nation's 480,000 school buses that are in regular service nationwide remain in top operating condition. This requires a tried and true preventative maintenance schedule.

So what exactly is preventative maintenance?

We all have preventative maintenance performed on our personal automobiles. Many of us take our car into a quick oil change shop somewhere between 3,000 and 7,000 miles and wait while they change the oil and filter, lube the steering and suspension (if you have grease zerks), air the tires, vacuum the inside, check the transmission, power steering, anti-freeze, and washer fluid levels, and charge us if they add even a capful of fluid. They will check the belt, and pull the air filter in hopes you will need one at a huge mark up. Unless something goes wrong, this is the normal PM schedule for most cars on the road today.

Trucking companies are far more sophisticated.  A breakdown in another part of the Country can cost them thousands of dollars. They often study the life of various components and change them before they fail, preventing a breakdown. The school bus industry runs something between the automobile and the over the road trucking companies. School bus technicians try to find potential problems before they turn into costly repairs that remove the vehicle from service for extended periods of time. There are a number of ways we do this.  The daily pre-trip inspection performed by the driver is the most common. The scheduled services or inspection performed by the mechanics is another. Most states have an annual inspection requirement, which may be performed by a state official.

Preventative maintenance is the key to a safe fleet and an economically operated fleet. School buses must be inspected on a scheduled basis by a qualified mechanic. Lubrication is necessary to extend wear points. The amount of wear in many areas can be measured.  Replacement of component parts can be done before failure occurs.

There is no universal PM schedule. Manufacturers recommend a schedule for their vehicles. States often mandate schedules, and each fleet develops a schedule that they believe is best for them.  Some are based on days, miles, or hours of operation. No matter, these schedules should be continuously reviewed. Determining factors that some schedules may  not be ideal can start by looking at the number and type of vehicle breakdowns. For example, if an operation is making service calls for items that could be found during normal PM inspections may indicate that the schedule should be shortened.


NHTSA Calls Hearing Regarding U.S. Bus Recalls


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a notice of public hearing today on the Federal Register to determine why TCI has neither remedied 15 vehicle safety recalls vehicles manufactured by the old U.S. Bus nor notified bus owners, purchases and dealers of fixes under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

NTSB Publishes Recommendations to Thwart Braking Mistakes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Transportation Safety Board published its Sept. 1 report and recommendations on avoiding brake pedal misapplication in commercial vehicles including one that urges school districts to use recent crash investigations to re-evaluate student loading and unloading procedures.

Emission Standards: USA