A school bus is a type of
bus trolleybus in Toronto Toronto is the capital city of the Provinces and territories of Canada, Canadian province of Ontario. With a recorded population of 2,731,571 in 2016, it is the List of the 100 largest municipalities in Canada by p ...

owned, leased, contracted to, or operated by a school or school district. It is regularly used to
transport students
transport students
to and from school or school-related activities, but not including a charter bus or
transit bus Interior of a wheelchair-accessible transit bus, with bucket seats and smart-card readers at the exit. A transit bus (also big bus, commuter bus, city bus, town bus, urban bus, stage bus, public bus or simply bus) is a type of bus used on sh ...

transit bus
. Various configurations of school buses are used worldwide; the most iconic examples are the yellow school buses of the United States and Canada which are also found in other parts of the world. In North America, school buses are purpose-built vehicles distinguished from other types of buses by design characteristics mandated by federal and state/province regulations. In addition to their distinct paint color (
school bus yellow __NOTOC__ School bus yellow is a color Color ( American English), or colour ( Commonwealth English), is the characteristic of visual perception described through color ''categories'', with names such as red, orange (colour), orange, yello ...
), school buses are fitted with exterior warning lights (to give them traffic priority) and multiple safety devices.Highway Safety Program Guidelines: Pupil Transportation Safety
. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Retrieved 2010-06-23.

Design history

19th century

In the second half of the 19th century, many rural areas of the United States and Canada were served by
one-room school One-room schools were commonplace throughout rural portions of various countries, including Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Ba ...
s. For those students who lived beyond practical walking distance from school, transportation was facilitated in the form of the
kid hack{{multiple issues, {{no footnotes, date=April 2019 {{one source, date=April 2019 A kid hack was a horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a domesticated odd-toed ungulate mammal. It belongs to the taxonomic family Equidae and is one of ...
; at the time, "
hack Hack may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Games * ''Hack'' (Unix video game), a 1984 roguelike video game * ''.hack'' (video game series), a series of video games by the multimedia franchise ''.hack'' Music * ''Hack'' (album), a 1990 ...

" was a term referring to certain types of horse-drawn carriages.Mark Theobald (2004)
Wayne Works
Coachbuilt.com. Retrieved 2010-04-26
Essentially re-purposed farm wagons, kid hacks were open to the elements, with little to no weather protection. In 1892, Indiana-based Wayne Works (later
Wayne Corporation The Wayne Corporation was an American manufacturer of es and other vehicles under the "Wayne" . The corporate headquarters were in , in . During the middle 20th century, Wayne served as a leading producer of es in . Among innovations introduced ...
) produced its first "school car" A purpose-built design, the school car was constructed with perimeter-mounted wooden bench seats and a roof (the sides remained open). As a horse-drawn wagon, the school car was fitted with a rear entrance door (intended to avoid startling the horses while loading or unloading passengers); over a century later, the design remains in use (as an emergency exit). In 1869, Massachusetts became the first state to add transportation to public education; by 1900, 16 other states would transport students to school.


Following the first decade of the 20th century, several developments would affect the design of the school bus and student transport. As vehicles evolved from horse-drawn to "horseless" propulsion on a wider basis, the wagon bodies of kid hacks and school cars were adapted to truck frames. While transitioning into purpose-built designs, a number of features from wagons were retained, including wood construction, perimeter bench seating, and rear entry doors. Weather protection remained minimal; some designs adopted a
tarpaulin A tarpaulin ( , ) or tarp is a large sheet of strong, flexible, water-resistant or waterproof material, often cloth such as canvas or polyester Polyester is a category of polymers that contain the ester functional group in every repeat ...
stretched above the passenger seating. In 1915,
International Harvester The International Harvester Company (often abbreviated by IHC or IH, or simply International (colloquialism, colloq.)) was an American manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment, automobiles, commercial trucks, lawn and garden produ ...
constructed its first school bus; today, its successor company Navistar still produces school bus cowled chassis. In 1919, the usage of school buses became funded in all 48 U.S. states. In 1927, Ford dealership owner A.L. Luce produced a bus body for a 1927
Ford Model T The Ford Model T (colloquially Colloquialism or colloquial language is the style (sociolinguistics), linguistic style used for casual (informal) communication. It is the most common functional style of speech, the idiom normally employed in ...

Ford Model T
. The forerunner of the first Blue Bird school buses, steel was used to panel and frame the bus body; wood was relegated to a secondary material. While fitted with a roof, the primary weather protection of the Luce bus design included roll-up canvas side curtains.


During the 1930s, school buses saw advances in their design and production that remain in use to this day. To better adapt automotive chassis design, school bus entry doors were moved from the rear to the front curbside, becoming a door operated by the driver (to ease loading passengers and improve forward visibility). The rear entry door of the kid hacks were re-purposed (as an emergency exit). Following the introduction of the steel-paneled 1927 Luce bus, school bus manufacturing began to transition towards all-steel construction. In 1930, both Superior and Wayne introduced all-steel school buses; the latter introduced safety glass windows for its bus body. As school bus design paralleled the design of light to medium-duty commercial trucks of the time, the advent of forward-control trucks would have their own influence on school bus design. In an effort to gain extra seating capacity and visibility,
Crown Coach The Crown Coach Corporation (founded as the Crown Carriage Company) is a defunct American bus manufacturing, bus manufacturer. Founded in 1904, the company was best known for its Crown Supercoach, Supercoach range of School buses, yellow school b ...
built its own cabover school bus design from the ground up.Mark Theobald (2004)
"Crown Coach"
Coachbuild.com. Retrieved 2010-04-29
Sandi Brockway (January 11, 2007)
"Crown Coach Corporation (1932–1991)"
Crown Coach Historical Society. Retrieved 2010-04-28
Introduced in 1932, the
Crown Supercoach The Crown Supercoach is a bus that was constructed and marketed by Crown Coach Corporation from 1948 to 1991. While most examples were sold as yellow school buses, the Supercoach formed the basis for motorcoaches and other specialty vehicles using ...
seated up to 76 passengers, the highest-capacity school bus of the time. As the 1930s progressed, flat-front school buses began to follow motorcoach design in styling as well as engineering, gradually adopting the term "transit-style" for their appearance. In 1940, the first mid-engined transit school bus was produced by
Gillig Gillig (formerly Gillig Brothers) is an American designer and manufacturer of buses. The company headquarters, along with its manufacturing operations, is located in Livermore, California (in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area ...
in California.

Developing production standards

The custom-built nature of school buses created an inherent obstacle to their profitable mass production on a large scale. Although school bus design had moved away from the wagon-style kid hacks of the generation before, there was not yet a recognized set of industry-wide standards for school buses. In 1939, rural education expert Dr. Frank W. Cyr organized a week-long conference at
Teachers College, Columbia University Teachers College, Columbia University (TC) is a graduate school, graduate school of education, health, and psychology in New York City. Founded in 1887, it has served as one of the official Faculties and the Department of Education of Columbia ...
that forever changed the design and production of school buses. Funded by a $5,000 grant, Dr. Cyr invited transportation officials, representatives from body and chassis manufacturers, and paint companies."Frank W. Cyr, 'Father of the Yellow School Bus,' Dies at the Age of 95"
Columbia University press release (August 3, 1995). Retrieved 2010-04-07
To reduce the complexity of school bus production and increase safety, a set of 44 standards were agreed upon and adopted by the attendees (such as interior and exterior dimensions and the forward-facing seating configuration). To allow for large-scale production of school buses among body manufacturers, adoption of these standards allowed for greater consistency among body manufacturers. While many of the standards of the 1939 conference have been modified or updated, one part of its legacy remains a key part of every school bus in North America today: the adoption of a standard paint color for all school buses. While technically named "National School Bus Glossy Yellow",
school bus yellow __NOTOC__ School bus yellow is a color Color ( American English), or colour ( Commonwealth English), is the characteristic of visual perception described through color ''categories'', with names such as red, orange (colour), orange, yello ...
was adopted for use since it was considered easiest to see in dawn and dusk, and it contrasted well with black lettering. While not universally used worldwide, yellow has become the shade most commonly associated with school buses both in North America and abroad.


During World War II, school bus manufacturers converted to military production, manufacturing buses and license-built trucks for the military. Following the war, school bus operation would see a number of changes, following developments within education systems. Following World War II and the , demand for school busing increased outside of rural areas; in suburbs and larger urban areas, community design often made walking to school impractical beyond a certain distance from home (particularly as students progressed into high school). In all but the most isolated areas,
one-room school One-room schools were commonplace throughout rural portions of various countries, including Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Ba ...
s from the turn of the century had become phased out in favor of multi-grade schools introduced in urban areas. In another change, school districts shifted bus operation from buses operated by single individuals to district-owned fleets (operated by district employees).


From 1950 to 1982, the
baby boom generation Baby boomers (often shortened to boomers) are the demographic Demography (from prefix ''demo-'' from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly d ...
was either in elementary or high school, leading to a significant increase in student populations across North America; this would be a factor that would directly influence school bus production for over three decades. During the 1950s, as student populations began to grow, larger school buses began to enter production. To increase seating capacity (extra rows of seats), manufacturers began to produce bodies on heavier-duty truck chassis; transit-style school buses also grew in size. In 1954, the first diesel-engined school bus was introduced, with the first tandem-axle school bus in 1955 (a Crown Supercoach, expanding seating to 91 passengers). To improve
accessibility Accessibility in the sense considered here refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities A disability is any condition that makes it more difficult for a person to d ...

, at the end of the 1950s, manufacturers developed a curbside
wheelchair lift A wheelchair lift, also known as a platform lift, or vertical platform lift, is a fully powered device designed to raise a wheelchair and its occupant in order to overcome a step or similar vertical barrier. Wheelchair lifts can be installed in ...

wheelchair lift
option to transport wheelchair-using passengers. In modified form, the design remains in use today. During the 1950s and 1960s, manufacturers also began to develop designs for small school buses, optimized for urban routes with crowded, narrow streets along with rural routes too isolated for a full-size bus. For this role, manufacturers initially began the use of yellow-painted utility vehicles such as the International Travelall and
Chevrolet Suburban The Chevrolet Suburban is a series of automobiles built by the Chevrolet Chevrolet ( ), colloquially referred to as Chevy and formally the Chevrolet Division of General Motors Company, is an American automobile division of the American ...

Chevrolet Suburban
. As another alternative, manufacturers began use of passenger vans, such as the Chevrolet Van/GMC Handi-Van,
Dodge A100 The A100 is a range of compact van Image:68 Dodge Sporstman Van (6255320295).jpg, Dodge A100 A compact van is a type of van characterized by a flat front design, mechanicals based on a compact car, an engine placed either at the rear or between ...
, and ; along with yellow paint, these vehicles were fitted with red warning lights. While more maneuverable, automotive-based school buses did not offer the reinforced passenger compartment of a full-size school bus.

Structural integrity

During the 1960s, as with standard passenger cars, concerns began to arise for passenger protection in catastrophic traffic collisions. At the time, the weak point of the body structure was the body joints; where panels and pieces were
rivet A rivet is a permanent mechanical fastener. Before being installed, a rivet consists of a smooth cylindrical shaft with a head on one end. The end opposite to the head is called the ''tail''. On installation, the rivet is placed in a punched ...

ed together, joints could break apart in major accidents, with the bus body causing harm to passengers. After subjecting a bus to a in 1964, in 1969,
Ward Body Works Ward Body Works (also known as Ward Industries and Ward School Bus Manufacturing, Inc.) was an American bus manufacturer. Headquartered in Conway, Arkansas Conway is a city in the U.S. state of Arkansas Arkansas () is a U.S. state, sta ...
pointing that fasteners had a direct effect on joint quality (and that body manufacturers were using relatively few rivets and fasteners). In its own research,
Wayne Corporation The Wayne Corporation was an American manufacturer of es and other vehicles under the "Wayne" . The corporate headquarters were in , in . During the middle 20th century, Wayne served as a leading producer of es in . Among innovations introduced ...
discovered that the body joints were the weak points themselves. In 1973, to reduce the risk of body panel separation, Wayne introduced the
Wayne Lifeguard The Wayne Lifeguard is a type C school bus built by Wayne Corporation, introduced in 1973. Produced until Wayne Corporation declared bankruptcy and was liquidated in late 1992, the Lifeguard was also produced by successor Wayne Wheeled Vehicles un ...
, a school bus body with single-piece body side and roof stampings. While single-piece stampings seen in the Lifeguard had their own manufacturing challenges, school buses of today use relatively few side panels to minimize body joints.


During the 1970s, school buses would undergo a number of design upgrades related to safety. While many changes were related to protecting passengers, others were intended to minimizing the chances of
traffic collision A traffic collision, also called a motor vehicle collision, car accident or car crash, occurs when a vehicle collision, collides with another vehicle, pedestrian, animal, road debris, or other stationary obstruction, such as a tree, Utility pol ...

traffic collision
s. To decrease confusion over traffic priority (increasing safety around school bus stops), federal and state regulations were amended, requiring for many states/provinces to add amber warning lamps inboard of the red warning lamps. Similar to a yellow traffic light, the amber lights are activated before stopping (at distance), indicating to drivers that a school bus is about to stop and unload/load students. Adopted by a number of states during the mid-1970s, amber warning lights became nearly universal equipment on new school buses by the end of the 1980s. To supplement the additional warning lights and to help prevent drivers from passing a stopped school bus, a stop arm was added to nearly all school buses; connected to the wiring of the warning lights, the deployable stop arm extended during a bus stop with its own set of red flashing lights. In the 1970s, school busing expanded further, under controversial reasons; a number of larger cities began to bus students in an effort to racially integrate schools. Out of necessity, the additional usage created further demand for bus production.

Industry safety regulations

From 1939 to 1973, school bus production was largely self-regulated. In 1973, the first federal regulations governing school buses went into effect, as FMVSS 217 was required for school buses; the regulation governed specifications of rear emergency exit doors/windows. Following the focus on school bus structural integrity, NHTSA introduced the four ''Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for School Buses,'' applied on April 1, 1977, bringing significant change to the design, engineering, and construction of school buses and a substantial improvement in safety performance. While many changes related to the 1977 safety standards were made under the body structure (to improve
crashworthiness Crashworthiness is the ability of a structure to protect its occupants during an impact. This is commonly tested when investigating the safety of aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gaining support from the Atmo ...
), the most visible change was to passenger seating. In place of the metal-back passenger seats seen since the 1930s, the regulations introduced taller seats with thick padding on both the front and back, acting as a protective barrier. Further improvement has resulted from continuing efforts by the U.S.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA ) is an agency Agency may refer to: * a governmental or other institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington, are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior". Ins ...
(NHTSA) and
Transport Canada Transport Canada (french: Transports Canada) is the Ministry (government department), department within the Government of Canada responsible for developing regulations, Policy, policies and Public services, services of road, rail, marine and air ...
, as well as by the bus industry and various safety advocates. As of 2020 production, all of these standards remain in effect. As manufacturers sought to develop safer school buses, small school buses underwent a transition away from automotive-based vehicles. The introduction of
cutaway van chassis Cutaway van chassis are used by second stage manufacturer A second stage manufacturer, known in the industry as "bodybuilder," builds such products as bus and truck mining truck A truck or lorry is a motor vehicle designed to transport ...
allowed bus manufacturers to mate a van cab with a purpose-built bus body, using the same construction as a full-size school bus. Within the same length as a passenger van, buses such as the Wayne Busette and Blue Bird Micro Bird offered additional seating capacity, wheelchair lifts, and the same body construction as larger school buses.


For school bus manufacturers, the 1980s marked a period of struggle, following a combination of factors. As the decade began, the end of the baby-boom generation had finished high school; with a decrease in student population growth, school bus manufacturing was left with a degree of overcapacity. Coupled with the recession economy of the early 1980s, the decline in demand for school bus production left several manufacturers in financial ruin. To better secure their future, during the 1990s, school bus manufacturers underwent a period of transition, with several ownership changes leading to joint ventures and alignments between body manufacturers and chassis suppliers. In 1986, with the signing of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act, school bus drivers across the United States became required to acquire a commercial driver's license (CDL). While CDLs were issued by individual states, the federal CDL requirement ensured that drivers of all large vehicles (such as school buses) had a consistent training level. In contrast to the 1970s focus on structural integrity, design advances during the 1980s and 1990s focused around the driver. In 1979 and 1980, International Harvester and Ford each introduced a new-generation bus chassis, with General Motors following suit in 1984. To increase driver visibility, updates in line with chassis redesigns shifted the bus driver upward, outward, and forward. To decrease driver distraction, interior controls were redesigned with improved
ergonomics Human factors and ergonomics (commonly referred to as human factors) is the application of psychological and physiological principles to the engineering and design of products, processes, and systems. The goal of human factors is to reduce human ...
; automatic transmissions came into wider use, preventing the risk of stalling (in hazardous places such as intersections or railroad crossings). Initially introduced during the late 1960s, crossview mirrors came into universal use, improving the view of the blind spots in front of the bus while loading or unloading. To supplement the rear emergency door in an evacuation, manufacturers introduced additional emergency exits during the 1980s, including roof-mounted escape hatches and outward-opening exit windows. Side-mounted exit doors (originally introduced on rear-engine buses), became offered on front-engine and conventional-body buses as a supplemental exit. Alongside safety, body and chassis manufacturers sought to advance fuel economy of school buses. During the 1980s, diesel engines came into wide use in conventional and small school buses, gradually replacing gasoline-fueled engines. In 1987, International became the first chassis manufacturer to offer diesel engines exclusively, with Ford following suit in 1990. While conventional-style buses remained the most widely produced full-size school bus, interest in forward visibility, higher seating capacity, and shorter turning radius led to a major expansion of market share of the transit-style configuration, coinciding with several design introductions in the late 1980s. Following the 1986 introduction of the
Wayne Lifestar The Wayne Lifestar is a product line of buses that was manufactured and marketed by Wayne Corporation and its successor company Wayne Wheeled Vehicles from 1986 to 1995. Produced nearly exclusively in a school bus configuration, the Wayne Lifestar ...
, the AmTran Genesis,
Blue Bird TC/2000 The Blue Bird TC/2000 is a product line of buses that was produced by the American manufacturer Blue Bird Corporation (then Blue Bird Body Company) from 1987 to 2003. Introduced as a second transit-style product range alongside the Blue Bird All ...
, and Thomas Saf-T-Liner MVP would prove far more successful. During the 1990s, small school buses shifted further away from their van-conversion roots. In 1991, Girardin launched the MB-II, combining a single rear-wheel van chassis with a full cutaway bus body. Following the 1992 redesign of the Ford E-Series and the 1997 launch of Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana cutaway chassis, manufacturers followed suit, developing bodies to optimize loading-zone visibility. As manufacturers universally adopted cutaway bodies for single rear-wheel buses, the use of the
Dodge Ram Van The Dodge B series was a range of full-size van A van is a type of road vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is any physical system with ordered structural and functional properties. It may represent human ...
chassis was phased out. By the late 1990s, the United States government banned the use of 15-passenger vans for student transport, leading to the introduction of Multi-Function School Activity Buses (MFSAB). To better protect passengers, MFSABs share the body structure and compartmentalized seating layout of school buses. Not intended (nor allowed) for uses requiring traffic priority, they are not fitted with school bus warning lights or stop arms (nor are they painted school bus yellow).

Manufacturer transitions

In 1980, school buses were manufactured by six body manufacturers (Blue Bird, Carpenter, Superior, Thomas, Ward, Wayne) and three chassis manufacturers (Ford, General Motors, and International Harvester); in California, two manufacturers (Crown and Gillig) manufactured transit-style school buses using proprietary chassis (sold primarily across the West Coast). From 1980 to 2001, all eight bus manufacturers would undergo periods of struggle and ownership changes. In 1980, Ward filed for bankruptcy, reorganizing as
AmTran American Transportation Corporation (better known as AmTran) was an American manufacturer of school bus A school bus is a type of bus owned, leased, contracted to, or operated by a school or school district. It is regularly used to Student t ...
in 1981. The same year, Superior was liquidated by its parent company, closing its doors. Under its company management, Superior was split into two manufacturers, with
Mid Bus Mid Bus was a corporation which specialized in manufacturing customized school bus A school bus is a type of bus owned, leased, contracted to, or operated by a school or school district. It is regularly used to Student transport, transport stu ...
introducing small buses in 1981 and a reorganized Superior producing full-size buses from 1982 to 1985. At the end of 1989, Carpenter would file for bankruptcy, emerging from it in 1990. In 1991, Crown Coach would close its doors forever; Gillig produced its last school bus in 1993. Following several ownership changes, Wayne Corporation was liquidated in 1992; successor
Wayne Wheeled Vehicles Wayne Wheeled Vehicles (WWV) was a tradename of a division of a vehicle manufacturer that specialized primarily in the production of school buses. It was owned by Harsco Corporation, who purchased the rights to use the Wayne brand name, certain p ...
was closed in 1995. In 2001, Carpenter closed its doors. During the 1990s, as body manufacturers secured their future, family-owned businesses were replaced by subsidiaries as manufacturers underwent mergers, joint ventures, and acquisitions with major chassis suppliers. In 1991, Navistar began its acquisition of AmTran (fully acquiring it in 1995), phasing out the Ward brand name in 1993. In 1992, Blue Bird would change hands for the first of several times. In 1998, Carpenter was acquired by Spartan Motors and Thomas Built Buses was sold to Freightliner; the latter was the final major school bus manufacturer operating under family control. Alongside the 1981 introduction of Mid Bus, Corbeil commenced production in Canada and the United States in 1985. Following the second (and final) closure of Superior in 1986, New Bus Company acquired the rights to its body design, producing buses from 1988 to 1989. In 1991, TAM-USA was a joint venture to produce the TAM 252 A 121. Assembled in Slovenia with final assembly in California, the TAM vehicle was to be the first American-market school bus imported from Europe. In comparison to body manufacturers, chassis suppliers saw a smaller degree of transition. As International Harvester became
Navistar International Navistar International Corporation is an American holding company A holding company is a company whose primary business is holding a controlling interest in the securities of other companies. A holding company usually does not produce ...
in 1986, the company released updated bus chassis for 1989; in 1996, it produced its first rear-engine bus chassis since 1973. In late 1996, Freightliner produced its first bus chassis, expanding to four manufacturers for the first time since the exit of Dodge in 1977. Ford and General Motors gradually exited out of cowled-chassis production with Ford producing its last chassis after 1998; General Motors exited the segment after 2003. Both Ford and GM continue production today, concentrating on cutaway-van chassis.


The beginning of the 21st century would introduce extensive changes to the production of school buses. Though vehicle assembly saw few direct changes, manufacturer consolidation and industry contraction effectively ended the practice of customers selecting body and chassis manufacturers independently. While the aspect of customer choice was largely ended (as a result of corporate ownership and supply agreements), decreased complexity paved the way for new product innovations previously thought impossible. During the 2010s, while diesel engines have remained the primary source of power, manufacturers expanded the availability of alternative-fuel vehicles, including CNG, propane, gasoline, and electric-power buses. At the beginning of the 2000s, manufacturers introduced a new generation of conventional-style school buses, coinciding with the redesign of several medium-duty truck lines. While Ford and General Motors shifted bus production to cutaway chassis, Freightliner and International released new cowled chassis in 2004 and 2005, respectively. In 2003, Blue Bird introduced the
Vision Vision or The Vision may refer to: Perception Optical perception * Visual perception Visual perception is the ability to interpret the surrounding environment (biophysical), environment through photopic vision (daytime vision), color vis ...

conventional; in line with its transit-style buses, the Vision utilized a proprietary chassis (rather than a design from a medium-duty truck). In 2004, Thomas introduced the Saf-T-Liner C2 (derived from the
Freightliner M2 The Freightliner Business Class M2 is a model range of medium-duty truck, medium-duty trucks produced by Freightliner Trucks, Freightliner. In production since June 2002, the M2 is the successor to the Freightliner Business Class (FL-Series), FL- ...
), with the body designed alongside its chassis (allowing the use of the production Freightliner dashboard). A trait of both the Vision and C2 (over their predecessors) is improved loading-zone visibility; both vehicles adopted highly sloped hoods and extra glass around the entry door. In 2005, IC introduced a redesigned CE-series to fit the
International 3300 The International 3300 is a Type-C cowled bus chassis (conventional-style) manufactured by Navistar International Navistar International Corporation is an American holding company A holding company is a company whose primary busines ...
chassis; to improve visibility, the windshield was redesigned (eliminating the center post). Between 2004 and 2008
Advanced Energy
an NC based non-profit created by the NC Utilities Commission begun an effort to move to plug-in hybrid school buses. A business and technical feasibility proved the benefits, and in 2006, 20 districts awarded a contract facilitated by Advanced Energy to IC Bus to produce the buses. Although the buses produced significant benefits, the buses were slowly discontinued when the hybrid system manufacture Enova faded into financial challenges. In 2011, Lion Bus (renamed Lion Electric Company) of
Saint-Jérôme, Quebec Saint-Jérôme () (Canada 2011 Census, 2011 Population 68,456) is a Greater Montreal, suburban city located about northwest of Montreal on the Rivière du Nord (Laurentides), Rivière du Nord. The town is a gateway to the Laurentian Mountains a ...
was founded, marking the first entry into the segment in over 20 years by a full-size bus manufacturer. Using a chassis supplied by
Spartan Motors The Shyft Group (), formerly known as Spartan Motors, is an American automobile design company that designs, engineers and manufactures specialty chassis, specialty vehicles, truck bodies and aftermarket parts for the recreational vehicle (RV), g ...
, Lion produces conventional-style school buses, its design features several firsts for school bus production. Along with a 102-inch body width, to resist corrosion, Lion uses composite body panels in place of steel. In 2015, Lion introduced the eLion, the first mass-produced school bus with a fully electric powertrain. Small school buses have undergone few fundamental changes to their designs during the 2000s, though the Type B configuration has largely been retired from production. Following the 1998 sale of the General Motors P-chassis to Navistar subsidiary
Workhorse A draft horse (US), draught horse (UK) or dray horse (from the Old English ''dragan'' meaning "to draw or haul"; compare Dutch language, Dutch ''dragen'' and German language, German ''tragen'' meaning "to carry" and Danish language, Danish '' ...
, the design began to be phased out in favor of higher-capacity Type A buses. In 2006, IC introduced the BE200 as its first small school bus; a fully cowled Type B, the BE200 shared much of its body with the CE (on a lower-profile chassis). In 2010, IC introduced the AE-series, a cutaway-cab school bus (derived from the
International TerraStar The International TerraStar is a product line of medium duty truck mining truck A truck or lorry is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration. Smaller varieties may be mechanically s ...
). In 2015, the
Ford Transit The Ford Transit, also known as the Ford T-Series in some markets, is a family of light commercial vehicle A light commercial vehicle (LCV) in the European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of Member ...

Ford Transit
cutaway chassis was introduced (alongside the long-running E350/450); initially sold with a Micro Bird body, the Transit has been offered through several manufacturers. In 2018, the first bus derived from the
Ram ProMaster The Fiat Ducato is a light commercial vehicle officially developed by Stellantis and produced since 1981. It was also sold as the Citroën C25, Peugeot J5, Alfa Romeo AR6 and Talbot Express for the first generation, while the second and third gen ...
cutaway chassis was introduced; Collins Bus introduced the Collins Low Floor, the first low-floor school bus (of any configuration).

Manufacturing segment stability

Following the 2001 closure of Carpenter, the manufacturing segment has seen a much lower degree of contraction (with the exception of the 2005 failure of startup manufacturer Liberty Bus). Following the bankruptcy of Corbeil, the company was acquired at the end of 2007 by Collins, reorganizing it as a subsidiary (alongside Mid Bus) and shifting production to its Kansas facilities. The same year, U.S. Bus was reorganized as Trans Tech. In 2008, Starcraft Bus entered the segment, producing school buses on cutaway chassis (a 2011 prototype using a Hino chassis was never produced). In 2009, Blue Bird and Girardin entered into a joint venture, named Micro Bird; Girardin develops and produces the Blue Bird small-bus product line in Canada. The 2011 founding of Lion Bus marked the return of bus production to Canada (with the first Canadian-brand full-size buses sold in the United States). During the 2010s, Collins retired the Mid Bus and Corbeil brands (in 2013 and 2016, respectively).

Safety innovations

During the 2000s, school bus safety adopted a number of evolutionary advances. To further improve visibility for other drivers, manufacturers began to replace incandescent lights with
LEDs A light-emitting diode (LED) is a that emits light when flows through it. s in the semiconductor recombine with s, releasing energy in the form of s. The color of the light (corresponding to the energy of the photons) is determined b ...
for running lights, turn signals, brake lights, and warning lamps. School bus crossing arms, first introduced in the late 1990s, came into wider use. Electronics took on a new role in school bus operation. To increase child safety and security, alarm systems have been developed to prevent children from being left on unattended school buses overnight. To track drivers who illegally pass school buses loading and unloading students, in the 2010s, some school buses began to adopt exterior cameras synchronized with the deployment of the exterior stop arms. Onboard GPS tracking devices have taken on a dual role of
fleet management Fleet management is the management of: * Commercial motor vehicles such as cars, vans, trucks, specialist vehicles (such as mobile construction machinery), forklift A forklift (also called lift truck, jitney, fork truck, fork hoist, and forkli ...
and location tracking, allowing for internal management of costs and also to alert waiting parents and students of the real-time location of their bus. Seatbelts in school buses underwent a redesign, with lap-type seatbelts phased out in favor of .

Design overview

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), school buses are the safest type of road vehicle. On average, five fatalities involve school-age children on a school bus each year; statistically, a school bus is over 70 times safer than riding to school by car. Many fatalities related to school buses are passengers of other vehicles and pedestrians (only 5% are bus occupants). Since the initial development of consistent school bus standards in 1939, many of the ensuing changes to school buses over the past eight decades have been safety related, particularly in response to more stringent regulations adopted by state and federal governments. Ever since the adoption of yellow as a standard color in 1939, school buses deliberately integrate the concept of conspicuity into their design. When making student dropoffs or pickups, traffic law gives school buses priority over other vehicles; in order to stop traffic, they are equipped with flashing lights and a stop sign. As a consequence of their size, school buses have a number of blind spots around the outside of the vehicle which can endanger passengers disembarking a bus or pedestrians standing or walking nearby. To address this safety challenge, a key point of school bus design is focused on exterior visibility, improving the design of bus windows, mirrors, and the windshield to optimize visibility for the driver. In the case of a collision, the body structure of a school bus is designed with an integral
roll cage A roll cage is a specially engineered and constructed frame built in (or sometimes around, in which case it is known as an exo cage) the passenger compartment of a vehicle to protect its occupants from being injured or killed in an accident, part ...

roll cage
; as a school bus carries a large number of student passengers, a school bus is designed with several emergency exits to facilitate fast egress. In the United States and Canada, numerous federal and state regulations require school buses to be manufactured as a purpose-built vehicle distinct from other buses. In contrast to buses in use for public transit, dedicated school buses used for student transport are all single-deck, two-axle design ( multi-axle designs are no longer in use). Outside of North America, buses utilized for student transport are derived from vehicles used elsewhere in transit systems, including coaches, minibuses, and transit buses.


There are four types of school buses produced by manufacturers in North America. The smallest school buses are designated Type A (based on cutaway van chassis); a larger format (bodied on bare front-engine chassis) are designated Type B buses. Large school buses include Type C (bodied on cowled medium-duty truck chassis) and Type D (bodied on bare "forward control" or "pusher" chassis). Type C buses are the most common design, while Type D buses are the largest vehicles. All school buses are of single deck design with step entry. In the United States and Canada, bus bodies are restricted to a maximum width of and a maximum length of . Seating capacity is affected by both body length and operator specifications, with the largest designs seating up to 90 passengers.

Other formats

In both public and private education systems, other types of school buses are used for purposes of student transport outside of regular route service. Along with their usage, these buses are distinguished from regular yellow school buses by their exterior design. An "activity bus" is a school bus used for providing transportation for students. In place of home to school route service, an activity bus is primarily used for the purpose for transportation related to extracurricular activities. Depending on individual state/provincial regulations, the bus used for this purpose can either be a regular yellow school bus or a dedicated unit for this purpose. Dedicated activity buses, while not painted yellow, are fitted with the similar interiors as well as the same traffic control devices for dropping off students (at other schools); conversely, it cannot be used in regular route service. A Multi-Function School Activity Bus (MFSAB) is a bus intended for use in both the private sector and the educational system. While sharing a body structure with a school bus, an MFSAB is not designed for use in route service, as it is not fitted with traffic control devices (i.e., red warning lights, stop arm) nor is it painted school bus yellow. Within the educational system, the design is primarily used for extracurricular activities requiring bus transportation; in the private sector, the MFSAB is intended as a replacement for 15-passenger vans (no longer legal for child transport in either the public or private sector). Many examples are derived from Type A buses (with derivatives of full-size school buses also offered).



To specifically identify them as such, purpose-built school buses are painted a specific shade of yellow, designed to optimize their visibility for other drivers. In addition to "School Bus" signage in the front and rear above the window line, school buses are labeled with the name of the operator (school district or bus contractor) and an identification number.

= Yellow color

= Yellow was adopted as the standard color for North American school buses in 1939. In April of that year, rural education specialist Frank W. Cyr organized a national conference at
Columbia University Columbia University (also known as Columbia, and officially as Columbia University in the City of New York) is a Private university, private Ivy League research university in New York City. Established in 1754 as King's College on the grounds of ...

Columbia University
to establish production standards for school buses, including a standard exterior color. The color which became known as "school bus yellow" was selected because black lettering on that specific hue was easiest to see in the semi-darkness of early morning and late afternoon. Officially, school bus yellow was designated "National School Bus Chrome"; following the removal of lead from the pigment, it was renamed " National School Bus Glossy Yellow". Outside the United States and Canada, the association of yellow with school buses has led to its use on school-use buses around the world (although not necessarily required by government specification). Some areas establishing school transport services have conducted evaluations of American yellow-style school buses; to better suit local climate conditions, other governments have established their own color requirements, favoring other high-visibility colors (such as white or orange).

= Retroreflective markings

= While its yellow exterior makes it more conspicuous than other vehicles, a school bus can remain hard to see in some low-visibility conditions, including sunrise or sunset, poor weather (all seasons), and in rural areas. To further improve their visibility (to other vehicles), many state and provincial governments (for example, Colorado) require the use of yellow reflective tape on school buses. Marking the length, width, height, and in some cases, identifying the bus as a school bus, reflective tape makes the vehicle easier to see in low light, also marking all emergency exits (so rescue personnel can quickly find them in darkness). Other requirements include reflective "School Bus" lettering (or the use of a front-lighted sign). The equivalent requirement in Canada is almost identical; the only difference is that red cannot be used as a retroreflective color.

Safety devices

To comply with federal and state requirements, school buses are equipped with a number of safety devices to prevent accidents and injuries and for the purposes of security.

= Mirror systems

= When driving and when loading/unloading students, a key priority for a school bus driver is maintaining proper sightlines around their vehicle; the blind spots formed by the school bus can be a significant risk to bus drivers and traffic as well as pedestrians. In the United States, approximately of students killed outside of the school bus are not struck by other vehicles, but by their own bus. To combat this problem, school buses are specified with sophisticated and comprehensive mirror systems. In redesigns of school bus bodies, driver visibility and overall sightlines have become important considerations. In comparison to school buses from the 1980s, school buses from the 2000s have much larger windscreens and fewer and/or smaller blind spots.

=Emergency exits

= For the purposes of evacuation, school buses are equipped with a minimum of at least one emergency exit (in addition to the main entry door). The rear-mounted emergency exit door is a design feature adopted from horse-drawn wagons (the entrance was rear-mounted to avoid disturbing the horses); in rear-engine school buses, the door is replaced by an exit window mounted above the engine compartment (supplemented by a side-mounted exit door). Additional exits may be located in the roof (roof hatches), window exits, and/or side emergency exit doors. All are opened by the use of quick-release latches which activate an alarm. The number of emergency exits in a school bus is dependent on its seating capacity and also varies by individual state/provincial requirements. The most currently installed is eight; Kentucky requires a rear exit door (or window, for rear-engine buses), a left-side exit door, four exit windows, and two roof-mounted exit hatches.

=Video surveillance

= Since the 1990s, video cameras have become common equipment installed inside school buses. As recording technology has transitioned from
VHS VHS (Video Home System) is a for consumer-level on tape . From the 1950s, video recording became a major contributor to the television industry, via the first commercialized s (VTRs). At that time, the expensive devices were used only i ...

digital camera A digital camera is a camera A camera is an optical Optics is the branch of physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behav ...

digital camera
s, school buses have adopted multiple-camera systems, providing surveillance from multiple vantage points. While primarily used to monitor and record passenger behavior, video cameras have also been used in the investigation of accidents involving school buses. On March 28, 2000, a
Murray County, Georgia Murray County is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in certain modern nations. The term is ...
, school bus was hit by a
CSX CSX Transportation , known colloquially as simply CSX, is a Class I freight railroad operating in the eastern United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a ...
freight train at an unsignaled
railroad crossing , Merseyside Merseyside ( ) is a metropolitan county, metropolitan and ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county in North West England, with a population of List of ceremonial counties of England, 1.38 million. It encompasses the ...
; three children were killed. The bus driver claimed to have stopped and looked for approaching trains before proceeding across the tracks, as is required by law, but the onboard camera recorded that the bus had in fact not stopped. In the 2010s, exterior-mounted cameras synchronized with the stop arms have come into use. The cameras photograph vehicles that illegally pass the bus when its stop arm and warning lights are in use (thus committing a moving violation).

Restraint systems

In contrast to cars and other light-duty passenger vehicles, school buses are not typically equipped with active restraint systems, such as
seat belt A seat belt (also known as a safety belt, or spelled seatbelt) is a vehicle safety Automotive safety is the study and practice of design, construction, equipment and regulation to minimize the occurrence and consequences of traffic collisio ...

seat belt
s; whether seat belts should be a requirement has been a topic of controversy. Since the 1970s, school buses have used the concept of
compartmentalization Compartmentalization or compartmentalisation may refer to: * Compartmentalization (biology) * Compartmentalization (engineering) * Compartmentalization (fire protection) * Compartmentalization (information security) * Compartmentalization (psycholo ...
as a passive restraint system during the late 2000s and 2010s, seatbelt design transitioned, with 3-point restraints replacing lap belts. As of 2015, seatbelts are a requirement in at least five states:
California California is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper i ...

Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geor ...

New Jersey New Jersey is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic States, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York (state), New York; on the ea ...
New York New York most commonly refers to: * New York City, the most populous city in the United States, located in the state of New York * New York (state), a state in the northeastern United States New York may also refer to: Film and television * New ...
, and
Texas Texas (, ; Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambigu ...

; Canada does not require their installation (at the provincial level). Of the states that equip buses with two-point lap seat belts (Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York), only New Jersey requires seat belt usage by riders. In other states, it is up to the district or operator whether to require riders to use them or not.

= Passive restraints (compartmentalization)

= According to the National Highway Transportation Association (NHTSA), studies completed previously on school buses showed that due to their size and heaviness, school buses did not require that safety belts be in place. Information gathered in previous studies showed that a size of a bus, combined with the design of the seat and the material in the space between the seats themselves, showed that there was no need for safety belts on a school bus. A bus is larger and heavier than a normal size passenger vehicle and could distribute the force of the crash evenly. Combined with the space between the seats as well as the design prevented serious injuries from happening. This attribute, does not carry over to a small bus due to its lesser size; buses with a GVWR under 10,000 pounds are required to have safety belts. However, recent accidents involving school buses that have caused serious (if not fatal) injuries have caused the National Transportation Safety Board to conduct new tests to check the legitimacy of this continued practice. After completing these tests due to bus accidents in 2016, they have recommended that new buses being built need to have both a lap and shoulder harness in place. They have also recommended that 42 states add seat belts as a requirement. There are some states that have already added the lap belt. This study made the NTSB recommend adding shoulder harnesses to those states that already have a lap belt in place. In 1967 and 1972, as part of an effort to improve crash protection in school buses,
UCLA The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization, or organ ...
researchers played a role in the future of school bus interior design. Using the metal-backed seats then in use as a means of comparison, several new seat designs were researched in crash testing. In its conclusion, the UCLA researchers found that the safest design was a 28-inch high padded seatback spaced a maximum of 24 inches apart, using the concept of compartmentalization as a passive restraint. While the UCLA researchers found the compartmentalized seats to be the safest design, they found active restraints (such as seatbelts) to be next in terms of importance of passenger safety. In 1977, FMVSS 222 mandated a change to compartmentalized seats, though the height requirement was lowered to 24 inches. According to the NTSB, the main disadvantage of passive-restraint seats is its lack of protection in side-impact collisions (with larger vehicles) and rollover situations. Though by design, students are protected front to back by compartmentalization, it allows the potential for ejection in other crash situations (however rare).

= Active restraints (seatbelts)

= ''Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 222'' was introduced in 1977, requiring passive restraints and more stringent structural integrity standards; as part of the legislation, seatbelts were exempted from school buses with a gross vehicle weight (GVWR) exceeding 10,000 pounds. In 1987, New York became the first state to require seatbelts on full-size school buses (raising the seat height to 28 inches); the requirement did not mandate their use. In 1992, New Jersey followed suit, becoming the first state to require their use, remaining the only state to do so. Outside of North America, Great Britain mandated seatbelts in 1995 for minibuses used in student transportation. In 2004, California became the first state to require 3-point seatbelts (on small buses; large buses, 2005), with Texas becoming the second in 2010. In 2011, FMVSS 222 was revised to improve occupant protection in small (Type A) school buses. Along with requiring 3-point restraints (in place of lap belts), the revision created design standards for their use in full-size school buses. While previously reducing seating capacity by up to one-third, NHTSA recognized new technology that allows using seatbelts for either three small (elementary-age) children or two larger children (high-school age) per seat. In October 2013, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) most recently stated at their annual transportation conference (NAPT) that they now fully support three-point lap-shoulder seat belts on school buses.
CBC Television CBC Television (also known as CBC TV) is a Canadian English-language broadcast Broadcasting is the distributionDistribution may refer to: Mathematics *Distribution (mathematics) Distributions, also known as Schwartz distributions o ...
's '' The Fifth Estate'' has been critical of a 1984
Transport Canada Transport Canada (french: Transports Canada) is the Ministry (government department), department within the Government of Canada responsible for developing regulations, Policy, policies and Public services, services of road, rail, marine and air ...
study, a crash test of a school bus colliding head-on that suggested that seat belts (at the time, which were ) would interfere with the compartmentalization passive safety system. This had become "the most widely cited study" in North America, according to U.S. regulators, and was frequently quoted for decades by school boards and bus manufacturers across the continent as a reason not to install seat belts. Transport Canada has stuck to its stance against installing seat belts on school buses, despite numerous newer studies and actual accidents showing that compartmentalization could not protect against side impacts, rollovers, and being rear-ended; which would have been avoided by implementing three-point seat belts that would have kept occupants from being thrown from their seats.


In 2018, 44,381 school buses were sold in North America (compared to 31,194 in 2010). Approximately 70% of production is of Type C configuration.

Production (North America)

In the United States and Canada, school buses are currently produced by nine different manufacturers. Four of them—
Collins Industries Collins Bus Corporation is an American Bus manufacturing, bus manufacturer headquartered in Hutchinson, Kansas. Best known for production of School bus, yellow school buses, the company produces buses for multiple applications; all bodies designed ...
Starcraft Bus Forest River Inc. is an American manufacturer of recreational vehicle A recreational vehicle, often abbreviated as RV, is a motor vehicle or trailer which includes living quarters designed for accommodation. Types of RVs include motorhome ...
, Trans Tech, and Van Con — specialize exclusively in small buses.
Thomas Built Buses Thomas Built Buses, Inc. (commonly designated Thomas) is an American bus manufacturer. Best known for its production of yellow school bus A school bus is a type of bus owned, leased, contracted to, or operated by a school or school district ...

Thomas Built Buses
Blue Bird Corporation The Blue Bird Corporation (originally known as the Blue Bird Body Company) is an American bus manufacturer headquartered in Fort Valley, Georgia Fort Valley is a city in and the county seat A county seat is an administrative center, seat of ...
(the latter, through its Micro Bird joint venture with Girardin)—produce both small and large buses. IC Bus and Lion Electric produce full-size buses exclusively. During the 20th century, Canada was home to satellite facilities of several U.S. firms (Blue Bird, Thomas, Wayne), exporting production across North America, with other production imported from the United States. Domestically, Corbeil manufactured full-size and small school buses (1985-2007) and Girardin produced small buses. In 2011, Lion Bus (today, Lion Electric Company/ La Compagnie Électrique Lion) was founded as a Quebec-based manufacturer of full-size buses, shifting development to fully-electric vehicles.


Every year in the United States and Canada, school buses provide an estimated 8 billion student trips from home and school. Each school day in 2015, nearly 484,000 school buses transported 26.9 million children to and from school and school-related activities; over half of the United States K–12 student population is transported by school bus. Outside North America, purpose-built vehicles for student transport are less common. Depending on location, students ride to school on transit buses (on school-only routes),
coaches Coach may refer to: Guidance/instruction * Coach (sport), a director of athletes' training and activities * Coaching, the practice of guiding an individual through a process ** Acting coach, a teacher who trains performers Transportation * Coac ...
, or a variety of other buses. While school bus operations vary widely by location, in the United States and Canada, school bus services operate independent of
public transport Public transport (also known as public transportation, public transit, mass transit, or simply transit) is a system of transport Transport (in British English), or transportation (in American English), is the Motion, movement of humans ...
, with their own
bus stop A bus stop is a designated place where buses A bus (contracted from omnibus, with variants multibus, motorbus, autobus, etc.) is a designed to carry many s. Buses can have a capacity as high as 300 passengers. The most common type is t ...

bus stop
s and schedules, coordinated with school class times.


School bus drivers in the United States are required to hold a
commercial driver's license A commercial driver's license (CDL) is a driver's license A driver's license is a legal authorization, or the official document confirming such an authorization, for a specific individual to operate one or more types of motorized vehic ...
(CDL). Full-size school buses are generally considered Class B vehicles; most van-based school buses are considered Class C vehicles. In addition to a standard P (passenger) endorsement, school bus drivers must acquire a separate S (school bus) endorsement; along with a written and driving test, the endorsement requires a
background check A background check is a process a person or company uses to verify that an individual is who they claim to be, and this provides an opportunity to check and confirm the validity of someone's criminal record A criminal record, police record, or ...

background check
and sex offender registry check.

Loading and unloading

Coinciding with their seating configuration, school buses have a higher seating capacity than buses of a similar length; a typical full-size school bus can carry from 66 to 90 passengers. In contrast to a transit bus, school buses are equipped with a single entry door at the front of the bus. Several configurations of entry doors are used on school buses, including center-hinged (jack-knife) and outward-opening. Prior to the 2000s, doors operated manually by the driver were the most common, with air or electric-assist becoming nearly universal in current vehicles. School bus routes are designed with multiple bus stops, allowing for the loading (unloading) of several students at a time; the stop at school is the only time that the bus loads (unloads) passengers at once. To inhibit pedestrians from walking into the blind spot created by the hood (or lower bodywork, on Type D buses), crossing arms are safety devices that extend outward from the front bumper when the bus door is open for loading or unloading. By design, these force passengers to walk forward several feet forward of the bus (into the view of the driver) before they can cross the road in front of the bus. In the past, handrails in the entry way posed a potential risk for to students; as passengers exited a bus, items such as
drawstring A drawstring (draw string, draw-string) is a string String or strings may refer to: *String (structure), a long flexible structure made from threads twisted together, which is used to tie, bind, or hang other objects Arts, entertainment, and ...
s or other loose clothing could be caught if the driver was unaware and pulled away with the student caught in the door. To minimize this risk, school bus manufacturers have redesigned handrails and equipment in the stepwell area. In its ''School Bus Handrail Handbook'', the
NHTSA The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA ) is an agency Agency may refer to: * a governmental or other institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington, are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior". Ins ...
described a simple test procedure for identifying unsafe stepwell handrails.

Traffic priority

When loading and unloading students, school buses have the ability to stop traffic, using a system of warning lights and stop arms-a
stop sign A stop sign is a traffic sign s and other road signage in the English village of Sturminster Marshall, near Poole Traffic signs or road signs are signs erected at the side of or above road A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on lan ...

stop sign
that is deployed from the bus to stop traffic. By the mid-1940s, most U.S. states introduced traffic laws requiring motorists to stop for school buses while children were loading or unloading. The justifications for this protocol were: * Children (especially younger ones) have normally not yet developed the mental capacity to fully comprehend the hazards and consequences of street-crossing, and under U.S. tort laws, a child cannot legally be held accountable for negligence. For the same reason, adult
crossing guard A crossing guard (North American English North American English (NAmE, NAE) is the most generalized variety of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Eng ...
s often are deployed in walking zones between homes and schools. * It is impractical in many cases to avoid children crossing the traveled portions of roadways after leaving a school bus or to have an adult accompany them. * The size of a school bus generally limits visibility for both the children and motorists during loading and unloading. Since at least the mid-1970s, all U.S. states and Canadian provinces and territories have some sort of school bus traffic stop law; although each jurisdiction requires traffic to stop for a school bus loading and unloading passengers, different jurisdictions have different requirements of when to stop. Outside of North America, the school bus stopping traffic to unload and load children is not provided for. Instead of being given traffic priority, fellow drivers are encouraged to drive with extra caution around school buses.

Warning lights and stop arms

Around 1946, the first system of traffic warning signal lights on school buses was used in
Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), '' ...

, consisting of a pair of sealed beam lights. Instead of colorless glass lenses (similar to car headlamps), the warning lamps utilized red lenses. A motorized rotary switch applied power alternately to the red lights mounted at the left and right of the front and rear of the bus, creating a wig-wag effect. Activation was typically through a mechanical switch attached to the door control. However, on some buses (such as Gillig's Transit Coach models and the Kenworth-Pacific School Coach) activation of the roof warning lamp system was through the use of a pressure-sensitive switch on a manually controlled stop paddle lever located to the left of the driver's seat below the window. Whenever the pressure was relieved by extending the stop paddle, the electric current was activated to the relay. In the 1950s, plastic lenses were developed for the warning lenses, though the warning lights (with colorless glass lenses) used sealed-beam lamps into the mid-2000s, when light-emitting diodes (LEDs) came into use. The warning lamps initially used for school buses consisted of four red warning lights. With the adoption of
FMVSS 108 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 (FMVSS 108) regulates all automotive lighting, signalling and reflective devices in the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) ...
in January 1968, four additional lights, termed ''advance'' warning lights'','' were gradually added to school buses; these were amber in color and mounted inboard of the red warning lights. Intended to signal an upcoming stop to drivers, as the entry door was opened at the stop, they were wired to be overridden by the red lights and the stop sign. Although red & amber systems were adopted by many states and provinces during the 1970s and 1980s, the all-red systems remain in use by some locales such as
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Ontario, Canada ("Loyal she began, loyal she remains") , Label_map = yes , image_map = Ontario in Canada 2.svg , map_alt = Map showing Ontario's location east/central of Canada. , coordinates = , cap ...

Ontario, Canada
, older buses from
California California is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper i ...

, as well as on buses built in
Wisconsin Wisconsin () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper ...

before 2005. Th
Ontario School Bus Association
has challenged the effectiveness of Ontario's all-red 8-light warning system, citing that the use of red for both ''advance'' and ''stop'' warning signals is subject to driver misinterpretation. The Association claims that many motorists only have a vague understanding of Ontario's school bus stopping laws and that few drivers know that it is legal to pass a school bus with its inner (advance) warning lights actuated.
Transport Canada Transport Canada (french: Transports Canada) is the Ministry (government department), department within the Government of Canada responsible for developing regulations, Policy, policies and Public services, services of road, rail, marine and air ...
's Transport Development Centre compared the effectiveness of the all-red system to the amber-red system and found that drivers are 21% more likely to safely pass a school bus when presented with amber advance signals instead of red signals. Transport Canada states that amber advance signals are proven to be slightly superior to red signals and recommends that all-red warning signals be replaced by the eight-lamp system in the shortest period possible. After the issue had received media attention, a petition has been signed to make the switch from the all-red to amber advance lights on Ontario school busses. The has not yet provided any plan or timeline for the change. To aid visibility of the bus in inclement weather, school districts and school bus operators add flashing
strobe light A strobe light or stroboscopic lamp, commonly called a strobe, is a device used to produce regular flashes of light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation within the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be visua ...
s to the roof of the bus. Some states (for example, Illinois) require strobe lights as part of their local specifications. During the early 1950s, states began to specify a mechanical stop signal arm which the driver would deploy from the left side of the bus to warn traffic of a stop in progress. The portion of the stop arm protruding in front of traffic was initially a trapezoidal shape with painted on it. The U.S.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA ) is an agency Agency may refer to: * a governmental or other institution Institutions, according to Samuel P. Huntington, are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior". Ins ...
's Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 131 regulates the specifications of the stop arm as a double-faced regulation octagonal red
stop sign A stop sign is a traffic sign s and other road signage in the English village of Sturminster Marshall, near Poole Traffic signs or road signs are signs erected at the side of or above road A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on lan ...

stop sign
at least across, with white border and uppercase legend. It must be
retroreflective A retroreflector (sometimes called a retroflector or cataphote) is a device or surface that reflection (physics), reflects radiation (usually light) back to its source with minimum scattering. This works at a wide range of angle of incidence (opti ...
and/or equipped with alternately flashing red lights. As an alternative, the legend itself may also flash; this is commonly achieved with red
LEDs A light-emitting diode (LED) is a that emits light when flows through it. s in the semiconductor recombine with s, releasing energy in the form of s. The color of the light (corresponding to the energy of the photons) is determined b ...
.School bus pedestrian safety standards
Code of Federal Regulations Title 49, Section 571.131. Retrieved 2010-4-15.
FMVSS 131 stipulates that the stop signal arm be installed on the left side of the bus, and placed so that when it is extended, the arm is perpendicular to the side of the bus, with the top edge of the sign parallel to and within of a horizontal plane tangent to the bottom edge of the first passenger window frame behind the driver's window, and that the vertical center of the stop signal arm must be no more than from the side of the bus. One stop signal arm is required; a second may also be installed. The second stop arm, when it is present, is usually mounted near the rear of the bus, and is not permitted to bear a or any other legend on the side facing forward when deployed. The Canadian standard, defined in Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 131, is substantially identical to the U.S. standard. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, the use of stop signal arms is banned under traffic bylaws in multiple cities, citing that they provide a false sense of safety to students by encouraging
jaywalking Jaywalking occurs when a pedestrian walks in or crosses a roadway that has traffic, other than at a suitable crossing point, or otherwise in disregard of traffic rules. The term originated with ''jay-drivers'' (the word ''jay'' meaning 'a greenho ...

in front of the bus rather than safely crossing at an intersection. These bans have been the subject of public debate in cities such as Regina and
Prince Albert Prince Albert most commonly refers to: *Albert, Prince Consort german: link=no, Franz Albert August Karl Emanuel , house = , father = Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha , mother = Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenbu ...

Environmental impact

As the use of school buses transports students on a much larger scale than by car (on average, the same as 36 separate automobiles), their use reduces pollution in the same manner as
carpooling Carpooling (also car-sharing, ride-sharing and lift-sharing) is the sharing of car journeys so that more than one person travels in a car, and prevents the need for others to have to drive to a location themselves. By having more people using ...

. Through their usage of internal-combustion engines, school buses are not an emissions-free form of transportation (in comparison to
biking Cycling, also called bicycling or biking, is the use of bicycles for transport Transport (commonly used in the U.K.), or transportation (used in the U.S.), is the Motion, movement of humans, animals and cargo, goods from one location ...

walking Walking (also known as ambulation) is one of the main gait Gait is the pattern of movement Movement may refer to: Common uses * Movement (clockwork), the internal mechanism of a timepiece * Motion (physics), commonly referred to as move ...
). As of 2017, over 95% of school buses in North America are powered by diesel-fueled engines. While diesel offers fuel efficiency and safety advantages over gasoline, diesel exhaust fumes have become a concern (related to
health problems Health, according to the World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations United Nations Specialized Agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United Nations and each ...
). Since the early to mid-2000s, emissions standards for diesel engines have been upgraded considerably; a school bus meeting 2017 emissions standards is 60 times cleaner than a school bus from 2002 (and approximately 3,600 times cleaner than a counterpart from 1990). To comply with upgraded standards and regulations, diesel engines have been redesigned to use
ultra-low sulfur diesel Ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) is diesel fuel Diesel fuel in general is any liquid fuel Liquid fuels are combustible or energy-generating molecules that can be harnessed to create mechanical energy In physical sciences, mechanical energy is ...
fuel with
selective catalytic reduction Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) is a means of converting nitrogen oxide Nitrogen oxide may refer to a binary compound In materials chemistry, a binary phase or binary compound is a chemical compound containing two different elements. Some ...
becoming a primary emissions control strategy.

Alternative fuels

Although diesel fuel is most commonly used in large school buses (and even in many smaller ones), alternative fuel systems such as LPG/propane and
CNG Compressed natural gas is a fuel gas Fuel gas is any one of a number of fuel A fuel is any material that can be made to react with other substances so that it releases energy as thermal energy Thermal radiation in visible light can be se ...
have been developed to counter the emissions drawbacks that diesel and gasoline-fueled school buses pose to the public health and environment. The use of propane as a fuel for school buses began in the 1970s, largely as a response to the
1970s energy crisis The 1970s energy crisis occurred when the Western world, particularly the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, faced substantial petroleum Petroleum, also known as crude oil and oil, is a naturally occurring ...
. Initially produced as conversions of gasoline engines (as both require spark ignition), propane fell out of favor in the 1980s as fuel prices stabilized, coupled with the expanded use of diesel engines. In the late 2000s, propane-fueled powertrains reentered production as emissions regulations began to negatively affect the performance of diesel engines. In 2009, Blue Bird Corporation introduced a version of the Blue Bird Vision powered by a LPG-fuel engine.Blue Bird's Alternative Fuel Product Offerings
Blue Bird Corporation. Retrieved 2010-4-16
As of 2018, three manufacturers offer a propane-fuel full-size school bus (Blue Bird, IC, and Thomas), along with Ford and General Motors Type A chassis. Compressed natural gas was first introduced for school buses in the early 1990s (with Blue Bird building its first CNG bus in 1991 and Thomas building its first in 1993). As of 2018, CNG is offered by two full-size bus manufacturers (Blue Bird, Thomas) along with Ford and General Motors Type A chassis. In a reversal from the 1990s, gasoline-fuel engines made a return to full-size school buses during the 2010s, with Blue Bird introducing a gasoline-fuel Vision for 2016. As of current production, Blue Bird and IC offer gasoline-fuel full-size buses; gasoline engines are standard equipment in Ford and General Motors Type A chassis. As an alternative, gasoline-fuel engines offer simpler emissions equipment (over diesel engines) and a widely available fuel infrastructure (a drawback of LPG/CNG vehicles).

Electric school buses

In theory, urban and suburban routes prove advantageous for the use of an electric bus; charging can be achieved before and after the bus is transporting students (when the bus is parked). In the early 1990s, several prototype models of battery electric bus, battery-powered buses were developed as conversions of existing school buses; these were built primarily for research purposes. During the 2000s, school bus electrification shifted towards the development of hybrid electric bus, diesel-electric hybrid school buses. Intended as a means to minimize engine idling while loading/unloading passengers and increasing diesel fuel economy, hybrid school buses failed to gain widespread acceptance. A key factor in their market failure was their high price (nearly twice the price of a standard diesel school bus) and hybrid system complexity. In the 2010s, school bus electrification shifted from hybrids to fully electric vehicles, with several vehicles entering production. Trans Tech introduced the 2011 eTrans prototype (based on the Smith Electric Vehicles#Newton Truck, Smith Electric Newton cabover truck), later producing the 2014 SSTe, a derivative of the Ford E-450. The first full-size electric school bus was the Lion Bus eLion, introduced in 2015; as of 2018, over 150 examples have been produced. During 2017 and 2018, several body manufacturers introduced prototypes of electric school buses, with electric versions of the Blue Bird All American, Blue Bird Vision, Micro Bird G5 (on Ford E450 chassis), IC CE-Series, and the Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2 previewing production vehicles. During 2018, Blue Bird, Thomas, and IC introduced prototypes of full-size school buses intended for production; Blue Bird intends to offer electric-power versions of its entire product line.

Walking and cycling 'buses'

Walking buses and riding school bus, bike bus (known as ''riding school bus'' for students) take their names and some of the principle of public transport in a group to travel to school for students under adult supervision.

Other uses

Outside of student transport itself, the design of a school bus is adapted for use for a variety of applications. Along with newly produced vehicles, conversions of retired school buses see a large range of uses. Qualities desired from school buses involve sturdy construction (as school buses have an all-steel body and frame), a large seating capacity, and wheelchair lift capability, among others.

School bus derivatives

Church use

Churches throughout the United States and Canada use buses to transport their congregants, both to church services and events. A wide variety of buses are owned by churches, depending on needs and affordability. Larger buses may often be derived from school buses (newly purchased or second-hand). Other churches often own minibuses, often equipped with wheelchair lifts. When school bus derivatives are used, church bus livery is dictated by federal regulations, which require the removal of "School Bus" lettering and the disabling/removal of stop arms/warning lights. In some states, School Bus Yellow must be painted over entirely. In church use, transporting adults and/or children, traffic law does not give church buses traffic priority in most states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and
Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), '' ...

being the only states where a church bus can stop traffic with flashing red lights).

Community outreach

In terms of vehicles used for Outreach, community outreach, school bus bodyshells (both new and second-hand) see use as bookmobiles and bloodmobile, mobile blood donation centers (bloodmobiles), among other uses. Both types of vehicles spend long periods of time parked in the same place; to reduce fuel consumption, they often power interior equipment and climate control with an on-board generator in place of the chassis engine. Bookmobiles feature interior shelving for books and library equipment; bloodmobiles feature mobile phlebotomy stations and blood storage. File:Blood Drive Bus 2008 March MA.JPG, Massachusetts bloodmobile File:Blood Centers of the Pacific Blue Bird.JPG, Redwood City, California bloodmobile File:Big Red Bus, Tifton.JPG, Tifton County, Georgia bloodmobile File:The Choice Bus.jpg, "Choice Bus", a former school bus (Blue Bird TC/2000) configured with half mobile classroom (school bus)/half prison bus interior, developed in an effort to prevent student dropouts in the United States. File:Seattle - Fiestas Patrias Parade 2008 - bookmobile.jpg, Seattle Public Library bookmobile (1980s Thomas/Chevrolet) File:Bookmobile.jpg, Ottawa (ON) Public Library bookmobile (Thomas HDX) File:Queens PL bookmobile on Center Boulevard jeh.JPG, Queens (NYC) Public Library bookmobile (Blue Bird TC/2000) File:Ypsilanti District Library Bookmobile.JPG, Ypsilanti District Library bookmobile (Blue Bird TC/1000, rebodied)

Law enforcement

Larger police agencies may own police buses derived from school bus bodies for a number of purposes. Along with buses with high-capacity seating serving as officer transports (in large-scale deployments), other vehicles derived from buses may have little seating, serving as temporary mobile command centers; these vehicles are built from school bus bodyshells and fitted with agency-specified equipment. Prisoner transport vehicles are high-security vehicles used to transport prisoners; a school bus bodyshell is fitted with a specially designed interior and exterior with secure windows and doors. File:Union Tpke 164th St td (2018-05-18) 01 - NYPD Medical Bus.jpg, NYPD Medical Operations bus (Thomas EFX) File:NYCPD Command Post 4077.jpg, NYPD Command Post bus (Blue Bird A3RE) File:St Johns County Sheriff Dept FL (5).jpg, St. John's County (FL) Command Center bus (1980s Blue Bird All American), curbside view

Uses of retired school buses

As of 2016, the average age of a school bus in the United States is 9.3 years. School buses can be retired from service due to a number of factors, including vehicle age or mileage, mechanical condition, emissions compliance, or any combination of these factors. In some states and provinces, school bus retirement is called for at specific age or mileage intervals, regardless of mechanical condition. In recent years, budget concerns in many publicly funded school districts have necessitated that school buses be kept in service longer. When a school bus is retired from school use, it can see a wide variety of usage. While a majority are Vehicle recycling, scrapped for parts and recycling (a requirement in some states), better-running examples are put up for sale as surplus vehicles. Second-hand school buses are sold to such entities as churches, resorts or summer camps; others are exported to Central America, South America, or elsewhere. Other examples of retired school buses are preserved and restored by collectors and bus enthusiasts; collectors and museums have an interest in older and rarer models. Additionally, restored school buses appear alongside other period vehicles in television or film. When a school bus is sold for usage outside of student transport, NHTSA regulations require that its identification as a school bus be removed. To do so, all school bus lettering must be removed or covered while the exterior must be painted a color different than school bus yellow; the stop arm(s) and warning lamps must be removed or disabled. File:1942 Chevrolet bus Gillig body.jpg, 1942 Gillig/Chevrolet in use as a tour bus File:1946 Chevrolet School Bus "SoKool Bus".jpg, 1946 Chevrolet school bus restored and customized File:The Gator Bus.jpg, The "Gator Bus", a 1960s Wayne/Chevrolet school bus repurposed as a sign for an alligator park in Louisiana File:Dubois County Bombers bus.JPG, 1980s Crown Supercoach restored, painted to match the bus from ''A League of Their Own'' File:2018-08-19 Former Blue Bird TC2000 school bus at Jasper, AB 0698.jpg, Retired school bus (Blue Bird TC/2000) in use as a rafting shuttle

School bus conversions

In retirement, not all school buses live on as transport vehicles. In contrast, the purchasers of school buses use the large body and chassis to use as either a working vehicle, or as a basis to build a rolling home. To build a utility vehicle for farms, owners often remove much of the roof and sides, creating a large flatbed or open-bed truck for hauling hay. Other farms use unconverted, re-painted, school buses to transport their workforce. List of recreational vehicles#Bus conversion, Skoolies are retired school buses converted into recreational vehicles (the term also applies to their owners and enthusiasts). Constructed and customized by their owners; while some examples have primitive accommodations, others rival the features of production RVs. Exteriors vary widely, including only the removal of school bus lettering, conservative designs, or the bus equivalent of an art car. An example of a Skoolie is Further (bus), Further, a 1939 (and later, 1947) school bus converted by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, intended for use on cross-country counterculture road trips. Both versions of Further are painted with a variety of psychedelic colors and designs. File:Burning Man 2013 Cargo Cult (3).jpg, 1990s school bus conversion at 2013 Burning Man File:Further-1.jpg, Further (1947 version) File:Further-2.jpg, Further (1947 version), rear File:Further-1-2.jpg, Both versions of Further (1939 at right)

School bus export

Retired school buses from Canada and the United States are sometimes exported to Africa, Central America, South America, or elsewhere. Used as public transportation between communities, these buses are nicknamed "chicken buses" for both their crowded accommodation and the (occasional) transportation of livestock alongside passengers. To attract passengers (and fares), yellow buses are often repainted with flamboyant exterior color schemes and modified with chrome exterior trim.

Around the world

Outside the United States and Canada, the usage and design of buses for student transport varies worldwide. In Europe, Asia, and Australia, buses utilized for student transport may be derived from standard transit buses. Alongside differences in body, chassis, and seating design, school buses outside North America differ primarily in their signage, livery, and traffic priority.

See also

* Desegregation busing in the United States * List of school bus manufacturers *''The Magic School Bus'', American children's book, television, and video game series *Riding school bus * Walking bus


External links

''School Bus Fleet Magazine''
– news magazine for student transportation professionals
''School Transportation News''
– news magazine for student transportation professionals
U.S. DOT, NHTSA, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for School Buses (FMVSS)

School Bus Driver Steers Students Toward Love Of Reading
– video produced by Wisconsin Public Television {{DEFAULTSORT:School Bus Buses by type School buses, Student transport