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September 18, 2012  |   Comments (13)   |   Post a comment

District’s hybrid buses parked over green rub rails

By Kelly Roher


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Napa Valley (Calif.) Unified School District has put black vinyl tape over the green rub rails of its wheelchair-equipped hybrid buses so that it can operate them. The California Highway Patrol has said that the green rails are not in compliance with state and national standards. The green bumpers, however, are permitted. 

Napa Valley (Calif.) Unified School District has put black vinyl tape over the green rub rails of its wheelchair-equipped hybrid buses so that it can operate them. The California Highway Patrol has said that the green rails are not in compliance with state and national standards. The green bumpers, however, are permitted. 

NAPA VALLEY, Calif. — Many of Napa Valley Unified School District’s hybrid buses are currently out of service because the California Highway Patrol (CHP) maintains that their green rub rails do not comply with state and national standards.  

A section of Title 13 in the California Code of Regulations that covers school bus color and signs indicates that the exterior of a school bus must be yellow, with the exception of bumpers, grilles, lamp bodies and other accessories. (Therefore, the hybrid buses' green bumpers are permitted.) Title 13 also says that a bus' moldings and rub rails “may be black.”   

Napa Valley Unified School District Director of Transportation Ralph Knight told SBF in an interview that he understands California Title 13 requirements, but he noted that a statutory provision allows for exemptions.

He assembled a package with letters of support from the American Lung Association, Clean Cities coordinators, fire marshals and other groups and requested an exemption from CHP Commissioner Joseph Farrow. Farrow denied the request.

In a letter to Knight, he wrote, “The National School Bus Standards Conference establishes recommendations for nationwide standard school bus colors and markings, to ensure the vehicles are clearly distinguishable as vehicles transporting schoolchildren. Deviation from these standards must be strictly regulated to minimize the potential adverse effect associated with reduced regulation.”

Farrow also said that universally recognized markings that identify a vehicle as one that uses an alternative fuel are currently required by both federal and state regulations, but “do not include the use of green rub rails on school buses.”

Knight has several issues with Farrow’s response. He said that the color of rub rails is up to the discretion of individual states and is not part of the national school bus standards. Nevada allows green rub rails, and Colorado allows rub rails that are not black, according to Knight.

He also said he does not understand how green rub rails could have an adverse effect.  

“I don’t feel that the change from black rails to green rails is going to endanger kids on the bus,” he said, adding that he believes that the green rub rails actually contribute to the safety of students and first responders by drawing attention to the fact that the buses are powered by an alternative fuel.    

“In an emergency, we don’t want first responders to cut into a sidewall and run into a 300-volt wire,” Knight explained.

In addition, he believes that the green rub rails could help draw the attention of other motorists, thereby causing them to stop for the bus instead of illegally passing it.  

Knight said he is working with legislators to propose changes to the wording of Title 13 in the California Code of Regulations that would allow for rub rails to be a color other than black.

In the meantime, Knight has put black vinyl tape over the green rub rails of his wheelchair-equipped hybrid buses because he said he needs to operate them.


Other news on hybrid buses:

• Coalition honored for providing hybrid buses to Ky.

TV show features Mich. contractor’s hybrid buses


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Read more about: California, hybrid bus


With states wanting to put ADVERTISEMENTS on the school buses I don't see what the fuss is about. If the regulators wanted to specify ONLY yellow and black the the regulation would have said 'SHALL BE ALL YELLOW WITH YELLOW OR BLACK RUB RAILS'. In regulation MAY MEANS MAY and not MUST!!!

David Saxby Jr    |    Feb 22, 2013 05:44 AM

Local Air District and ARB funds paid for the buses & no....the green was not extra. Thanks

Ralph    |    Oct 04, 2012 06:49 PM

i guess with the goverment we have now we have no fed. guide lines lol they make it up as they go

fred dealaman    |    Oct 03, 2012 11:36 AM

Who Paid for the buses? was the paint extra

fred dealaman    |    Oct 03, 2012 11:34 AM

This is pure silliness and complete hokum. Oh, and Revenue Generation. I'm sure the owners of those buses will have to "apply for reinspection" and pay another fee for the reinspection. Can someone cite where green rub rails are a potential safety hazard? I'll wait. Meantime, absurdities such as this only serve to justify no-show, do-nothing jobs for relatives of elected officials. '

Frank    |    Sep 23, 2012 01:06 PM

CHP reads Title 13 that the rails "May" be black if they are not yellow. The word "May" does not allow you to pick any other color than black. We as trainers have cross that MAY & SHALL with our drivers before the test, but it all in how CHP wants to use it. Thanks

Ralph    |    Sep 20, 2012 10:46 AM

omg i should never post when i just woke up..anything other than black is not ok...lol bad me.

Buslady    |    Sep 19, 2012 09:35 AM

oh yeah, if I may mention...if anything other than black rails are ok, why are there so many buses running around with all yellow bodies? (wish there was an edit button to add to my previous post)

Buslady    |    Sep 19, 2012 09:34 AM

Ok if it says "MAY BE" that is not a "SHALL BE" .....See, there's that crazy dialog of May Be and Shall be. ok, if it says SHALL, that is that it absolutely has to be a certain way. May Be means, that it can be this way but it doesnt have to be. So CHP has it wrong.

Buslady    |    Sep 19, 2012 09:31 AM

My understanding of "may" was that it was discretionary, as in "may escort 9th grade and above". I guess it also means they "may" tell you that you can't do something. It's difficult when buses for CA are purchased in other states and the manufacturer has to deal with keeping track of 50 different requirements. The next thing is that you have an interpretation problem, and in this case, it seems one person gets to make the call. School bus requirements should be the same for each state.

Wendy    |    Sep 19, 2012 07:24 AM

I realize that Mr. Knight is trying to let Emergency personnel know about the Alternative fuel buses!! As a Transportation Director, and also I am a Captain on our Local Fire Dept. the Green bumpers would not make that much dieeference. Their our other ways to let Frist Responders know about the alternative options. They shouls be marked in letter on the bue to that effect, of this option! As far as cutting into the cable, Yes, that is important to know, BUT, each manufacturer does it different as does car manufacturer's!! The Standard needs to be that all bus builders needs to have their power cables or other devises , Located in the same Area!!! My Own,, Opinion!!!!

Gale Jordan    |    Sep 19, 2012 07:14 AM

School Buses are held to high safety standards and that includes proper identification. The front and rear are highly identified as a School Bus and the green bumpers may be an incentive and advertisement showing that our industry is supporting cleaner air standards. The students themselves will be asking why their "Schools" don't have "Green Buses". The green rub rails are not needed to support the "Green Bus" idea and only distract from School Bus identification giving the appearance of a circus vehicle. The initials of my company stand for School Bus Safety Improvements. Green rub rails fail the test.

Dwight -- DSBSI ltd.    |    Sep 18, 2012 08:52 PM

Doesn't "may" mean permitted but not required?

Michael    |    Sep 18, 2012 05:31 PM

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