What does the term Type A school bus mean?
The Type A school bus is one of seven vehicle types that can be manufactured to federal motor vehicle safety standards for school buses. Traditionally, it consists of a bus body constructed on a cutaway front-section vehicle with a left side driver’s door, which is designed for carrying more than 10 persons. This definition includes two classifications: Type A-I, with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or less, and a Type A-2, with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or more.
However, the new AE Series introduced by IC Bus in fall 2010, is a fully-integrated Type A school bus body and chassis. Type A school buses meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses. These buses have traditionally been referred to as “the short bus,” a negative connotation that validates that many units transport students with disabilties. But today, Type As are just a frequently used vehicle for regular route transportation, albeit that of a smaller busload of children to, say, a neighborhood school.
What is a Type B school bus?
The Type B school bus consists of a bus body that is constructed and installed on a front-section vehicle chassis, or stripped chassis, with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds that is designed for carrying more than 10 persons. Part of the engine is beneath and/or behind the windshield and beside the driver’s seat. The entrance door is behind the front wheels.
Type B school buses meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses. These buses, which are more rare on today’s roads and are designed for specific school district needs, fall squarely between a Type A school bus and Type C school bus in size.
Aren’t Type C school buses the “original” school bus?
Sort of. The Type C school bus, also known as a “conventional,” is a body installed upon a flat-back cowl chassis with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds, designed for carrying more than 10 persons. All of the engine is in front of the windshield and the entrance door is behind the front wheels. Type C school buses meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses. Type Cs are the traditional school buses depicted in movies and on TV shows. They have become as synonymous with the U.S. public education system, if not more so, than the little red school house and the apple on the teacher’s desk of yesteryear.
Increasingly, these buses are also equipped with wheelchair lifts to accomodate students with disabilities. But, to be technical, the first school buses were called cowls, basically enclosed horsedrawn carriages that evolved into motorized vehicles in the early 20th century.
I see many school buses on the road that resemble transit buses. What are these?
This is the Type D school bus, a transit-style vehicle with its body installed upon a chassis, with the engine mounted in the front, midship, or rear with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds, and designed for carrying more than 10 persons. The engine may be behind the windshield and beside the driver’s seat; it may be at the rear of the bus, behind the rear wheels; or midship between the front and rear axles. The entrance door is ahead of the front wheels. Type D school buses meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses. [Editor’s note: Type D school buses are referred to as RE for “rear-engine,” and FE for “foward engine,” or FC for “forward control” ]
Why do some school buses look different than others, for example in color?
You’re referring to the Multifunction School Activity Bus, or MFSAB, a vehicle sold for purposes that do not include transportation between home and school for K-12 students. Since they are not intended to be used for picking up or discharging students on public roadways, MFSABs are exempt from the traffic control requirements and devices — stop arm, flashing lights — designed to control traffic.
While the MFSABs are exempt from the traffic control requirements, they are required to comply with all school bus crash-worthiness standards, all other requirements in the school bus crash avoidance and conspicuity safety standards, and all post-crash school bus standards. Schools and school districts are specifically prohibited from using MFSABs to transport school children in regular route school bus transportation service. These buses are often used for activity and sports trips or for Head Start transportation.
Are there other vehicles that can be used for school transportation? Vans?
An Allowable Alternate Vehicle is a van that meets all federal school bus crash-worthiness standards, but does not meet conspicuity regulations or traffic control standards, i.e. flashing red lights, school bus yellow paint and left side stop arm. These school vehicles secure passengers better than a regular van in the event of a rollover crash. Federal regulations for Head Start transportation require that local agencies bus students on these AAVs or an MFSAB.
Meanwhile, a school van is a regular van converted to full school bus specifications. Major alterations are made to the vehicle including cutting the roof off and welding in a full roll cage, along with dozens of other major alterations. When complete, the vehicle rides like a regular van, but meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses.
A nonconforming van is a vehicle which does not conform to the applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses. Most 15-passenger vans are little more than cargo vehicles converted to passenger application. Most do not even have the basic safety features of traditional passenger vehicles.