TRENTON, N.J. — Legislation was recently signed into law that extends the service life of certain school buses operating in the state from 12 to 15 years.

Under the bill, school buses manufactured on or after Jan. 1, 2007, and school buses manufactured prior to Jan. 1, 2007, that have been installed with closed crankcase technology can remain in service for 15 years.

The law does not apply to transit-style school buses whose gross vehicle weight exceeds 25,000 pounds and Type S school buses, which are vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 3,000 pounds or more.

“The 12-year use limit on most school buses is outdated, as advances in the design and construction of school buses now allow for their safe and effective use over a longer period of time,” said Sen. Diane Allen, who co-sponsored the bill. “School districts can still update their buses sooner, if need be, but this law gives them the option to continue using a bus for three additional years if it is safe and meets all of the rigorous safety inspections.”

The establishment of a uniform school bus life of 15 years for all new school buses was a recommendation of the Commission on Business Efficiency of the Public Schools, as noted in its Feb. 11, 2006, report, “Finding the Road: Selected Issues in New Jersey Pupil Transportation.” The report states that there is no need to have different service lives for school buses of different gross vehicle weights and that there is a national consensus for a uniform 15-year school bus service life.

“Extending the life of a school bus is a safe, cost-effective way to save taxpayer money given today’s difficult economy,” Allen added. “Resources can now be spent in the classroom, where they belong.”

The bill also clarifies that the service life limits are applicable to all school buses, not only school buses operated under the jurisdiction of public schools.

Type S school buses, which can remain in service for 12 years, were originally designed with a maximum seating capacity of nine passengers or less, excluding the driver. Transit-style school buses whose gross vehicle weight exceeds 25,000 pounds are permitted to remain in service for 20 years under a different section of law.

The law was passed overwhelmingly in the state Legislature and received the support of the Department of Education, the Motor Vehicle Commission and various local boards of education, officials said.

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