Typical costs of equipping a school bus with lap-shoulder belts have dropped several thousand dollars over the past five years, according to SafeGuard.
Officials with the school bus seating supplier report that they are now seeing market prices in the $7,000 to $9,000 range — down from a range of $12,000 to $14,000 five years ago.
Charlie Vits, market development manager for SafeGuard, told SBF that those numbers are based on feedback from school bus distributors and purchasers.
“Someone might say, ‘I had a higher quote.’ The many available options can increase the cost,” Vits noted. “But those are the prices we’re hearing from the market in general.”
The price drop, he said, is “something that we have been predicting from the first year we sold seats, when people talked about the high costs.”
A number of factors are involved in the decrease. One is that manufacturing technology has improved, increasing efficiency. Another factor is that production volumes have increased every year. Also, an increased number of features on seats have met more industry needs and spurred demand.
Vits said that SafeGuard, which is a brand of IMMI, is seeing more widespread acceptance of lap-shoulder belts for school buses, “from a small district in the middle of Nebraska to larger districts across the country. Lap-shoulder belt equipped seats can now be found in all 50 states.”
But Vits noted that there are still misconceptions about the impact of lap-shoulder belt seating on school bus capacity. Flex seats, introduced about five years ago, can be adjusted to accommodate three smaller students or two larger students, and the same number of rows can fit in a bus as with standard non-belted seats.
“The seatback thickness is the same. The entire footprint is the same,” Vits said. “Capacity is not being reduced.”
A common refrain is that the flex seats won’t fit three high school students, but SafeGuard contends that a standard school bus seat also can’t do that safely.
Typically, if three larger students sit in a 39-inch seat, one of them will be sticking out of the seat and into the aisle. In that case, SafeGuard argues, the protection provided by school bus seat compartmentalization is compromised.