QUESTIONS

Why are school buses yellow?

When do I have to stop for a school bus?

Why don’t school buses have seat belts?

What is the passenger capacity of a school bus?

How long are school buses?

How much do school buses weigh?

How many axles and wheels does a school bus have?

How many school buses are there in the U.S.?

How many students in the U.S. ride school buses?

Why do school buses have black ridges along the side?

Have another question? Email us at [email protected].


ANSWERS

Why are school buses yellow?

Yellow was adopted as the standard color for school buses in 1939 at a national conference of school transportation representatives. The agreed-on shade of yellow was dubbed “National School Bus Chrome.” It’s now known as “National School Bus Glossy Yellow.” Yellow is a highly visible color that helps other drivers see school buses, which is particularly important when they are stopped to pick up or drop off passengers.

 


When do I have to stop for a school bus?

School bus stop laws vary slightly by state. Generally, when a school bus is stopped to pick up students, with its red lights flashing and its stop arm extended, vehicles traveling in the same direction have to stop for the bus. Vehicles traveling in the opposite also have to stop in some cases, depending on the type of roadway (for example, whether there is a raised median in the middle of the street). See the school bus stop requirements for specific states here.

 


Why don’t school buses have seat belts?

Since 1977, school buses have been required to have a passive form of occupant protection called compartmentalization — a closely spaced, energy-absorbing padded seating design. This has been one of the key factors in the yellow bus’ record as the safest form of transportation for students. Compartmentalization is particularly effective in frontal and rear impacts when students are seated properly, but federal safety authorities have found that three-point restraints can enhance protection for school bus passengers in severe side-impact and rollover crashes.

California is currently the only state with an effective requirement for three-point belts on school buses. Three other states require lap belts on school buses: Florida, New Jersey and New York. Texas and Louisiana have passed school bus seat belt bills, but both were contingent on funding being allocated to pay for the restraints. Since those two states’ mandates remain unfunded, they have not been enforced.

Some school districts in states that don’t require three-point belts in school buses have voluntarily implemented the restraints in their fleets.

Federally, three-point belts are required only on small school buses — more precisely, those with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, which account for a small proportion of the school bus market.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has long declined to mandate seat belts on large school buses. However, the agency took up the topic again in 2015, culminating with then-Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind stating at an industry conference in November 2015 that "every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt.” However, as of this writing, the agency has not proposed to make that a mandate.

Many other states have considered school bus seat belt legislation (sometimes year after year) but haven’t passed it. 

 


What is the passenger capacity of a school bus?

The biggest school buses — the flat-front, transit-style models that are known as Type Ds — can carry up to 90 passengers.

Conventional school buses — with a hood in front and the entrance door behind the front wheels, aka Type C models — typically have a capacity of about 80 passengers. These capacities are calculated with three students per seat.

Small school buses — Type A models, which are built on van chassis — typically have a capacity in the range of 12 to 32 passengers.

 


How long are school buses?

The biggest school buses are about 40 feet long. Small school buses are typically about 20 feet long.

 


How much do school buses weigh?

Large school buses have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of up to about 36,000 pounds. Small school buses typically have a GVWR in the range of 9,000 to 14,000 pounds. GVWR includes the weight of passengers, so these weights would be for fully loaded school buses.

 


How many axles and wheels does a school bus have?

Most school buses have two axles, with the bigger models having two wheels on the front axle and four wheels on the dual axle, for a total of six wheels. The smallest school buses have two wheels on both axles, for a total of four wheels. Some of the older coach-type school buses have three axles, like motorcoaches (aka charter or tour buses).

 


How many school buses are there in the U.S.?

As of the 2014-15 school year, there are about 485,000 school buses in the U.S.

 


How many students in the U.S. ride school buses?

As of the 2014-15 school year, school buses in the U.S. transport about 25 million students to and from school daily.

 


Why do school buses have black ridges along the side?

Those ridges, known as “rub rails,” help protect the school bus body panels from damage. They are typically painted black to contrast with the yellow, but at least one state requires the rub rails themselves to also be yellow.

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