If you’ve been reading the School Bus Fleet Fact Book in recent years, you’ve likely noticed that school bus sales have been trending upward.
I’m pleased to report that this trend continued in 2016, with a modest increase of about 2% compared to 2015. This was the fifth year in a row that school bus sales have grown.
The 2016 total of school bus sales in the U.S. and Canada, 40,925 units, is the highest mark for the industry in the past 10 years. The previous peak was in 2006, when pre-buying ahead of the EPA’s 2007 engine emissions standards contributed to an abnormally high school bus sales total of 47,614.
The growth of the past five years followed five years of falling sales, bottoming out at 29,060 units in 2011 after several years of severe economic recession.
Now, it’s safe to say that the market has recovered, and school bus OEMs are projecting another increase in 2017, with an estimated 42,100 units to be sold.
You can peruse the 2016 and previous years’ numbers in our sales report in our Fact Book, but here are a few notable findings:
• The bulk of the school bus market continues to be Type C (aka conventional) models. In 2016, there were 29,486 Type Cs sold in the U.S. and Canada, which was 72% of the total sales.
• Type A (small) school bus sales held steady at 19% of the market, with a total of 7,608 units.
• Sales of Type D (transit-style) school buses dropped nearly 12% in 2016, accounting for 9% of the market with 3,831 units sold.
• Looking just at U.S. sales, there was an increase of 2.1% in 2016 compared to 2015.
• In Canada, school bus sales took a slight dip, down 0.3%. That followed a whopping increase of 29% in 2015 in Canada.
In addition to yellow school bus sales, we collected data on 2016 sales of multi-function school activity buses (MFSABs). These are not included in the school bus sales totals noted above nor in the sales report, but we provide them here:
• MFSAB sales in U.S.: 1,593
• MFSAB sales in Canada: 44
• 2016 MFSAB total: 1,637
While it was another good year for school bus sales, 2016 was marred by the worst school bus crash in recent history, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Six students were killed and more than 20 were injured in the Nov. 21 incident.
You can read our coverage of the Chattanooga crash here or in our upcoming January print issue. Suffice it to say that the tragedy was a staggering blow to our industry, which prides itself on keeping kids safe on the way to and from school.
It will likely be at least a year before the National Transportation Safety Board releases its final report on the Chattanooga crash. As we await more details and potential recommendations, let’s hope that there will be some valuable lessons that can help to prevent such a devastating loss in the future.