Because the population of pre-kindergarten children being transported to and from schools, childcare centers and Head Start agencies in school buses has increased significantly over the past decade, it’s important that transportation providers know how to properly spec their buses for pre-school passengers. To help transportation managers select a bus that fits their needs, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a 16-page booklet called “Choosing the Correct School Bus for Transporting Pre-School Age Children.” The booklet suggests that the transportation provider work closely with a knowledgeable school bus dealer who understands both federal and state requirements for these types of vehicles. Here are some keys to spec’ing a bus to meet your needs: Know your passengers — Determine how the bus is going to be used in the next few years as well as how it might be used 10 years from now. If it’s likely that it will be used at some point to transport pre-school children, it needs to be properly equipped for those children. Choose the proper size bus — Small school buses, with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, often are a good choice if you’re mainly going to be transporting pre-school children. Pick the right seating — Seat size and spacing are critical to the proper use of child safety restraint systems (child safety seats, integrated child safety seats and safety vests). You may also want to consider ordering school bus seats with built-in child safety seats. Anchorage systems — If you’re going to buy a large school bus to transport pre-school children, you’ll want to order lap belt-ready seats in each seating position that will hold a child safety restraint system. New universal attachment system — Beginning Sept. 1, 2002, all small school buses will be required to come equipped with a universal child safety seat attachment system in two seating positions. This will greatly simplify child safety seat installation and use. The system will consist of two lower anchorages. Each will be a rigid, round rod or bar located at the seat bight. Entry — Positioning the lowest step in the entry at the lowest practical height will help young children as they enter and exit the school bus. Reducing the height of each step may also help young passengers. The full text of the booklet can be downloaded from NHTSA’s Website. Go to www.nhtsa.dot.gov and click on “school buses” in the navigation bar.