TRENTON, N.J. — Legislation that would have allowed some school buses to stay in service for 15 years, up from 12, was unexpectedly vetoed by outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine earlier this week.
The bill had passed both houses of the state Legislature and was expected to be signed into law, but Corzine vetoed it without comment before he left office Tuesday.
Paul Henry, who sits on the legislative committee of the School Transportation Supervisors of New Jersey (STS), said Corzine’s move came as a surprise.
Henry said that while many STS members, including himself, intended to stick with their current replacement schedules if the bill had passed, “Others indicated they would have likely operated their buses for the full 15 years.”
The extension would have applied to school buses manufactured after Jan. 1, 2007, as well as those manufactured before then that comply with federal Clean Air Act standards for school buses. However, it would not have applied to Type D (or transit-style) school buses with a gross vehicle weight exceeding 25,000 pounds, which by state law can already stay in service for 20 years.
STS did not take an official position on the bill, but some noted the flexibility it could have provided.
“I am not an advocate of the 15-year bus; however, this bill would have allowed districts and contractors to continue with their current replacement schedule or have the option to operate their buses for up to 15 years,” said Henry, who is transportation supervisor at Washington Township Schools in Long Valley.
The extension might not have been feasible for some operations. At Henry’s district and others in northern New Jersey, school buses live “even a tougher life” than those down south. In Washington Township, that includes mountain driving and, in the winter, salt and calcium chloride on the roads, which eat away at the buses’ sheet metal and chassis components.
“A bus working in the southern or central areas of the state might have a better shot at a 15-year life span than its cousin in the north,” Henry said.
A benefit that the bill would have provided for some who stuck to replacing their buses at 12 years, Henry noted, is that they could have realized a greater resale value, since the buses could have been used for another three years.
With a new governor, Chris Christie, now in office, the bill could come to fruition in the future, although it would have to go through the Legislature again before getting back to the governor's desk.
“Given New Jersey’s economic condition, I would expect to see this bill reintroduced in the next legislative session,” Henry said.