Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law Senate Bill 1312, which amends Title 75 (Vehicles) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to permit school buses to be 45 feet in length. Sen. Elder Vogel said he introduced the legislation to give school districts and school bus contractors the option to choose the most appropriate school buses based on their needs.
Current state law "arbitrarily" limits school buses to 40 feet in length, Vogel noted, even though other types of non-school buses are legal in lengths up to 45 feet. Further, Pennsylvania is only one of five states that restrict the length of a school bus to 40 feet.
“Manufacturers are selling buses in lengths between 40 and 45 feet in other states, but our school districts and their contractors have been prohibited from using them in Pennsylvania,” Vogel said. “By allowing school districts and school bus contractors to purchase longer buses, they will be able to better control their costs by streamlining routes. Furthermore, it will allow school districts and contractors to choose from among the full selection of vehicles available with the latest technology and safety features to best meet the needs of their districts.”
Vogel added that the National Congress on Student Transportation, the meeting of state delegates every five years with the next event in May 2015, supports this concept by recommending the overall length of a school bus shall not exceed 45 feet, excluding accessories. The new legislation mirrors this recommendation by allowing buses to transport students on a school bus up to 45 feet in length.
The Senate approved a House-amended version of the bill June 30, including a section that will set a mandatory minimum sentence of three years imprisonment for fatal hit-and-run accidents, before sending it the governor.
Wayne B. Johnston, president of the Pennsylvania Transportation Association of Pennsylvania as well as and director of transportation for the School Districts of Springfield Township and Upper Dublin, told STN he has been asking Penn DOT for years to alter Chapter 171 to lengthen both the conventional and transit bus lengths to more than 40 feet, which is the state’s maximum length for a school bus.
“We already changed the width to accommodate potentially wider buses such as the prototype from Proterra LLC,” said Johnston. “From my perspective, the addition of perhaps three feet would not impact anything I can think of at this moment. It would provide each of the manufacturers the ability to offer an 84-passenger bus, (as) presently they can only offer an 81-passenger due to the length restriction.”