After the deadly Carrollton, Ky., bus crash in 1988, safety improvements were made to prevent another such fiery tragedy.
Those included the upgrading of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 301, which specifies requirements for fuel system integrity and security. Another action was the revision of FMVSS 217 to require that the total area of emergency exits be based on the designated seating capacity.
SAS Rubber Co., based in Painesville, Ohio, offers another solution for protecting school bus passengers from fire and smoke. The company manufactures a variety of parts made out of material that meets flame and smoke specifications for mass transit vehicles.
Those standards include the surface flammability requirement of ASTM E162, the surface flame propagation requirements of ASTM C1166, and the smoke optical density and toxic gas generation of ASTM E662.
A safer bus
SAS Rubber says that meeting these stringent specifications translates into the goal of a safer school bus. In the event that a fire breaks out, reducing harmful smoke is a critical part of that mission.
"Investigations that involve fire-related accidents report that death and serious injury occurs more from smoke inhalation rather than contact from open flames," says Donald Patt, executive vice president of SAS.
To that end, the company's products for school buses include sensitized and non-sensitized door edges, window and escape-hatch gaskets, fender guards, rub rail and "just about any parts that can be molded or extruded," Patt notes. The parts are available for new buses or can be retrofitted on older buses.
SAS's rubber compounds are tested by an accredited testing laboratory. The lab issues test results that are required by the federal government in the manufacturing of mass transit vehicles.
Patt notes that in the transit industry, federal funding is tied to meeting the flame and smoke standards, among other requirements. He points out a discrepancy here.
"Mass transit vehicles are protected by low smoke and flame specifications, but school buses for the most part are not," Patt says. "Is it because the mass transit vehicles are federally funded and school buses are not?"
SAS Rubber was founded in 1937 by Sol A. Sekki (whose initials provided the company's name). It has changed ownership a few times over the years but has been owned by Yokohama Rubber Co. of Japan since 1992.
With a staff of about 88 people, SAS has two divisions: industrial and hose. The industrial division produces the door strips, gaskets and other parts for school buses and transit vehicles. The hose division manufactures powersteering and air-conditioning hoses for the automotive industry.
"SAS is really a 'job shop' with very few proprietary items," Patt explains. "Our products end up in many different places. That's why we have so many compounds that are designed to meet many specifications for a wide range of products."
Patt came to SAS in 1965 as a factory worker in the mixing department. Then-owner Sam June decided to train him to be a compounder, and after that, Patt continued to work his way up in the company.
He has made school bus safety a focus and even wrote a letter on the subject to SBF several years ago.
The company has set up a Web page at saferbusses.sasrubber.com that gives details on smoke and flame resistance and even features videos of school bus fires.
"Take a look at the burning school bus videos on our Website to see how fast smoke and flame can spread," Patt says.