A survey of the seven school bus manufacturers showed a 13-percent increase in production over the past year, as reported in the 2014 School Transportation News Buyer's Guide.
At its highest output in three years, school bus manufacturers reported more than 37,343 builds during the production year of Nov. 1, 2012 through this past Oct. 31, according to a survey conducted this fall by School Transportation News.
The figure accounted for a 13-percent increase from last year and a more than 23 percent increase from a two-decade low of 30,304 reported in the 2012 Buyer's Guide.
The bus build data does not necessarily reflect the actual number of school buses purchased for home-to-school transportation or related travel.
The spike coincides with both more time elapsing since the recession officially ran from December 2007 to June 2009, which saw an onslaught of budget cuts hit school districts nationwide tied to the bursting of the housing bubble and the subprime mortgage crisis. This, in turn, affected property values, one of the lifelines to public education and related services.
"No doubt that this day had to come, when bus sales would begin to grow just to catch up with the past five years of budget woes resulting in using bus replacement funds for administrative and educational cost increases that schools did not want to pass on to taxpayers," commented Robert Pudlewski, an industry fleet consultant and STN's technical editor.
The last time so many school buses were manufactured was the 2007-2008 production year, the end of which coincided with the beginning of the recession. And despite the economic turndown being officially over since 2010, school budgets have continued to languish. Meanwhile, the student transportation industry saw its average, nationwide fleet replacement age rise to 12 years from the previous 10.
Type A small school buses increased to 7,845 units from 7,378 in 2013, and Type D transit-style school buses were up slightly to 4,098 from the previous figure of 3,953.