RALEIGH, N.C. — Pupil transportation officials in North Carolina are responding to changes that have been made to school bus replacement rules following the passage of the state’s budget earlier this summer.
Previously under North Carolina law, school districts had to replace their school buses after they logged 200,000 miles or reached 20 years of age, whichever came first.
Now, under the Current Operations and Capital Improvements Appropriations Act of 2013, which was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory and took effect in July, a school bus is eligible for replacement when it is either 20 years old or has been operated for 250,000 miles.
The law does make some exceptions to this, including the following:
• A bus that has been operated for less than 150,000 miles is not eligible for replacement regardless of its model year.
• A bus that is less than 15 years old by model year is not eligible for replacement until the bus has been operated for 300,000 miles.
Also under the act, the state Board of Education can authorize the replacement of up to 30 buses annually due to safety concerns about a bus or buses, such as mechanical or structural problems that would place a burden on a school district.
School districts will receive an incentive payment of $2,000 at the beginning of each school year for each bus eligible for replacement that they continue to operate, up until the bus is 23 years old by model year.
A school district could use the funds for the additional maintenance costs associated with operating a bus with higher mileage, or for any other school-related purpose.
The approved budget will provide $87 million over two years to replace about 1,100 buses, The Associated Press (AP) reports. The formula changes are projected to save $69 million over the same period, and advocates of the changes say that they will promote more efficient use of school buses.
However, pupil transportation officials at districts expressed different views on the changes. David Twiddy, president of the North Carolina Pupil Transportation Association and transportation director for Dare County Schools, told AP that it will take more money to keep school buses operating.
Binford Sloan, director of transportation for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, added that smaller school districts could have a difficult time with the new regulations, and he questioned whether the state will increase maintenance funds over time.
Meanwhile, Derek Graham, section chief of transportation services for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, told AP that the result of the changes on maintenance costs and other expenses is unknown at this point.
"We simply have no data to say whether that's a good policy or bad policy," he said. "We've never run buses that long before."