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September 01, 2006  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Decade by Decade: 50 Years of Pupil Transportation History

Countless occurrences have shaped the school bus industry over the past half-century, from safety innovations to key legislation to tragic accidents. Here’s an overview of noteworthy news that SCHOOL BUS FLEET has covered throughout its own history.

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Infamous kidnapping
Three armed men hijack a school bus carrying 26 students in Chowchilla, Calif. After transferring the children and driver into two vans and driving them around for 11 hours, the kidnappers imprison them in a moving van they had buried in a quarry about 100 miles away. As the captors were trying to arrange for a $5 million ransom, the driver and some of the older boys managed to dig their way to freedom and summon help after 16 hours underground.

First hydrogen-powered bus
Billings Energy Research Corp. reveals the first hydrogen-powered bus, a 19-passenger converted Winnebago Minibus that uses advanced hydride storage technology.

Cutting accident costs
The National Safety Council creates the Accident Investigation Manual to assist in minimizing accident cost and to prevent future accidents. The publication is management-oriented and uses a direct approach.

New braking standard
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires buses weighing 10,000 pounds or less to be capable of stopping from a speed of 30 miles per hour in a distance of 69 feet. Heavier school buses, traveling at the same speed, are expected to stop within 88 feet. The new federal safety standard becomes effective Oct. 12.



Raising the bar on construction
Change is now — new federal standards dealing with six areas of school bus production go into effect on April 1. The areas that need modifications are: emergency exits, roof strength, joint strength, seating, fuel system integrity and hydraulic brake systems. All buses made after this date must follow new regulations and have adjustments that comply with safety standards.

Longest bus body
What is called the longest bus body in the world rolls out of the production line at Wayne Corp.’s Richmond, Ind., plant. The bus measures in at 62.3 feet long and weighs 24,023 pounds. It is intended to transport workers in the oil fields of Egypt.



Braking standards revisited
FMVSS 121 requires a bus traveling at 60 miles per hour to stop without skidding in 293 feet or less. The reinstituted requirement applies to all air-brake-equipped buses built after Jan. 1.

Maintenance council formed
SCHOOL BUS FLEET announces the creation of the School Bus Maintenance Council. The first meeting follows the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s annual conference.



Special bus developed
The transportation department of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools works with Blue Bird Body Co. to create a bus to transport autistic children. The bus includes padded personal cubicles, footboard restricts and an isolated environment for the driver and driver aide to give care to the children.



Accidents exact high toll
A NHTSA report titled “The Economic Cost to Society of Motor Vehicle Accidents” estimates that the total annual economic cost of deaths, injuries and property damage in motor vehicle crashes is more than $57 billion.

9 dead in Arkansas crash
A school bus traveling on an Arkansas highway loses control on a curve, resulting in a deadly accident. Four students, five teachers and the driver are killed, and 29 others are injured. The 41 passengers were going to an annual industrial arts competition at the state capital.





Seat belt law in effect
The ever-present battle as to whether the use of seat belts should be mandated in school buses wages on. New York becomes the first state to require them by law in their new buses. The decision comes in response to an incident in which a coroner’s report concluded that a boy killed in a Westchester County bus accident would have survived if he had been wearing a proper seat belt.



New special-needs rules
The Missouri State Board of Education enacts new guidelines requiring children who use wheelchairs to be positioned in school buses face-forward and restrained by both lap and shoulder belts.



Bus drivers under 18 fired
Although drivers under 18 represent 14 percent of the bus driver workforce, the U.S. Department of Labor in North and South Carolina orders that anyone under that age be terminated prior to the 1988-89 school year. The decision is due to the disproportionate number of fatal accidents involving drivers under 18.

Carrollton catastrophe
In a fiery crash that kills 27 people and injures 30 more, a small pick-up truck driven by a drunken driver strikes a school bus carrying church members home from an amusement park in Carrollton, Ky. The tragedy spurs a number of school bus safety measures across the nation for years to come.



Truck driver faulted in Texas crash
The National Transportation Safety Board finds the driver of a Valley Coca-Cola delivery truck, who failed to halt at a stop sign, at fault in a crash with a school bus that took the lives of 21 students and injured about 50 others in Alton, Texas, in 1989. The bus had launched over an embankment and into a water-filled pit. The board issues 14 national guidelines for safety improvements, including a proposed increase in emergency evacuation drills.



CDL required for all drivers
Per the Federal Highway Administration, the nation’s bus drivers must now obtain a Commercial Driver’s License.

Conference covers special needs
The first National Conference and Exhibition on Transporting Students With Disabilities and Preschool Transportation Workshop convenes in Dallas. Representatives of two wheelchair manufacturers and school transportation officials create a committee to discuss safe transportation of students who use mobility devices. The committee plants seeds for the development of the WC-19, a voluntary standard for transport wheelchairs.

Arms of the law
Stop arms are required on all new school buses under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 131.



Testing for drugs, alcohol
School bus fleets with 50 or more drivers must now implement federal drug and alcohol testing. In 1996, fleets with fewer than 50 drivers will have to implement the testing.

Fox River Grove tragedy
Seven students are killed and many more are injured in a crash involving a school bus and a commuter train in Fox River Grove, Ill.

Industry loses a ‘father’
Frank Cyr, the “Father of the Yellow School Bus,” dies at age 95. Cyr organized the first national standards conference for school transportation in 1939, in which industry officials agreed upon dozens of standards for school buses, including a specific, highly visible shade of yellow.

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