Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
Altogether the U.S. Federal government has created 60 federal motor vehicle safety standards. Of these 37 apply to school buses. Of the 37, several were written specifically for the yellow school bus. Among them FMVSS 131, FMVSS 220, FMVSS 221 and FMVSS 222. Listed here are summary descriptions of the standards that apply to school buses. When you see the symbol below it indicates the FMVSS was developed specifically for school buses. Click on the FMVSS designation below to see the most recent edition of the regulation.
NHTSA amended this standard that specifies requirements for the performance and location of inside and outside rearview mirrors on motor vehicles by adding a requirement for rearview backup cameras in all vehicles including school buses that weigh less than 10,000 pounds GVWR, except motorcyles and trailers. The goal is to limit the number of fatalities and injuries that occur during backover incidents, especially to small children ages 0 to 5, people with disabilities and the elderly. That final compliance deadline for vehicle manufacturers to meet the requirement is May 1, 2018, but they must provide data to NHTSA one year earlier indicating they will be compliant. The original FMVSS 111, titled “Rearview mirrors,” established requirements for “cross view” mirror to see in front of and alongside the bus, and that the driver clearly see specific areas to the ground along the sides and around the front of the school bus. The purpose of this standard is to reduce the number of deaths and injuries that occur when the driver of a motor vehicle does not have a clear and reasonably unobstructed view to the rear. The requirements for school buses were revised for driver visibility in front of and along both sides of school buses.[Webmaster note: This standard was originally adopted on August 26, 1976. It has been amended ten times since, the most recent previous amendment became effective on Sept. 24, 1998.]
Application: Passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, school buses, and motorcycles (exempted from rearview backup camera requirement) under 10,000 pounds GVWR.
This standard establishes the requirement for Electronic Stablity Control Systems (ESCs) on all multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,536 Kg (10,000 pounds) or less by 2012. ESC systems use automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to assist the driver in maintaining control in critical driving situations in which the vehicle is beginning to lose directional stability at the rear wheels (spin out) or directional control at the front wheels (plow out). This standard was developed as part of a comprehensive plan for reducing the serious risk of rollover crashes and the risk of death and serious injury in those crashes.
Application: Passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,536 Kg (10,000 pounds) or less.
This standard establishes requirements for devices, namely extendable stop arms, that can be installed on school buses to improve the safety of pedestrians in the vicinity of stopped school buses. The purpose of this standard is to reduce deaths and injuries by minimizing the likelihood of vehicles passing a stopped school bus and striking pedestrians in the vicinity of the bus.
Webmaster note: This standard was originally adopted May 3, 1991. It has been amended three times since; the last amendment became effective May 28, 1998. It now permits strobe lights on stop signal arms and LED lighting on the surface of retroreflective stop signal arms. Application: School buses
This standard specifies performance requirements for the protection of vehicle occupants in crashes. The purpose of this standard is to reduce the number of deaths of vehicle occupants, and the severity of injuries, by specifying vehicle crashworthiness requirements in terms of forces and accelerations measured on a variety of anthropomorphic dummies in test crashes, and static airbag deployment tests. This standard also specifies equipment requirements for active and passive restraint systems.
Application: Passenger cars, trucks, buses, and multipurpose passenger vehicles with a GVWR of 3,855 kg (8,500 lb) or less and an UVW of 2,495 kg (5,500 lb) or less, except for walk-in van-type trucks or vehicles designed to be sold exclusively to the U. S. Postal Service.
This revised standard, effective Oct. 21, 2005 with a manufacturer compliance date of Feb. 22, 2006, specifies requirements for seat belt assemblies. Seat belt assemblies are devices such as straps, webbing, or similar material, as well as to all necessary buckles and other fasteners and all hardware designed for installing the assembly in a motor vehicle, and to the installation, usage, and maintenance instructions for the assembly. The purpose of this standard is to ensure that the hardware of seat belt assemblies shall be designed to prevent attachment bolts and other parts from becoming disengaged from the vehicle while in service.
Application: Passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses
This standard establishes requirements for seat belt assembly anchorages to ensure their proper location for effective occupant restraint and to reduce the likelihood of their failure during a vehicle impact.
Application: Any component, other than the webbing or straps, involved in transferring seat belt loads to the vehicle structure in passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses
This standard specifies requirements for child restraint systems used in motor vehicles and aircraft for the purpose of reducing the number of children killed or injured in motor vehicle crashes and in aircraft.
Application: Passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks and buses, and child restraint systems for use in motor vehicles and aircraft
This standard establishes requirements for the retention of windows other than windshields in buses, and establishes operating forces, opening dimensions, and markings for bus emergency exits. The purpose of this standard is to minimize the likelihood of occupants being thrown from the bus and to provide a means of readily accessible emergency egress.
[Webmaster note: This standard was originally adopted May 10, 1972. It has been amended 15 times since; the last amendment became effective on May 5, 1995.]
Application: Buses, including school buses
This standard establishes performance requirements for school bus rollover protection. The purpose of this standard is to reduce the number of deaths and the severity of injuries that result from failure of the school bus body structure to withstand forces encountered in rollover crashes. [Webmaster note: This standard was originally adopted on January 27, 1976. It has been amended twice since, the last amendment became effective May 27, 1998.]
Application: School buses
This standard establishes requirements for the strength of the body panel joints in school bus bodies. The purpose of this standard is to reduce deaths and injuries resulting from the structural collapse of school bus bodies during crashes. [Webmaster note: This standard was originally adopted on August 26, 1976.]
Application: School buses with GVWR of more than 4,536 kg (10,000 lb)
This standard establishes occupant protection requirements for school bus passenger seating, restraining barriers, and wheelchair anchorages. The purpose of this standard is to reduce the number of deaths and the severity of injuries that result from the impact of school bus occupants against structures within the vehicle during crashes and sudden driving maneuvers. This standard provides increased protection to passengers through a series of interior changes known as “compartmentalization,” or high-backed, well-padded, and well-constructed seats. This standard only applies to school buses and covers all styles of school bus. [Webmaster note: This standard was originally adopted on January 28, 1976. It has been amended a dozen times since; the last amendment became effective in April of 2009.]
Application: School buses
This standard establishes requirements for child restraint anchorage systems to ensure their proper location and strength for the effective securing of child restraints. The purpose of this standard is to reduce the likelihood of the anchorage systems’ failure, and to increase the likelihood that child restraints are properly secured and thus more fully achieve their potential effectiveness in motor vehicles. [Webmaster note: This standard was adopted on September 1, 1999. Future vehicles are equipped with child restraint anchorage systems that are standardized and independent of the vehicle seat belts.]
Application: Except for shuttle buses, this standard applies to passenger cars, trucks and multipurpose passenger vehicles with a GVWR of 3,855 kg (8,500 lb) or less, except walk-in van-type vehicles and vehicles manufactured to be sold exclusively to the U.S. Postal Service; and to buses (including school buses) with a GVWR of 4,536 kg (10,000 lb) or less
This standard specifies requirements for the integrity of motor vehicle fuel systems. Its purpose is to reduce deaths and injuries occurring from fires that result from fuel spillage during and after motor vehicle crashes. [Webmaster note: This standard was originally adopted on October 15, 1975. It has been amended seven times since; the last amendment became effective May 27, 1998.]
Application: Passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, school buses and other buses with a GVWR of 4,536 kg (10,000 lb) or less
This standard specifies burn resistance requirements for materials used in the occupant compartments of motor vehicles. Its purpose is to reduce the deaths and injuries to motor vehicle occupants caused by vehicle fires, especially those originating in the interior of the vehicle from sources such as matches or cigarettes.
Application: Passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks and buses.
This standard specifies requirements for the integrity of CNG motor vehicle fuel systems. The purpose of this standard is to reduce deaths and injuries occurring from fires that result from fuel leakage during and after motor vehicle crashes.
Application: This standard applies to each passenger car, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, school buses and other buses that use CNG as a motor fuel and to each container designed to store CNG as motor fuel on-board any motor vehicle.
FMVSS 403 Platform Lift Systems for Motor Vehicles
FMVSS 404 Platform Lift Installations on Motor Vehicles
This companion set of federal motor vehicle safety standards consists of an equipment standard specifying requirements for platform lifts; and a vehicle standard for all vehicles equipped with such lifts. The new equipment standard will require platform lift manufacturers to ensure that their lifts meet minimum platform dimensions and maximum size limits on platform protrusions and gaps between the platform and either the vehicle floor or the ground. The standard also requires handrails, a threshold warning signal, and retaining barriers for lifts. Performance tests are specified for wheelchair retention on the platform, lift strength, and platform slip resistance. A set of interlocks is prescribed to prevent accidental movement of a lift and the vehicle on which the lift is installed. The vehicle standard will require vehicle manufacturers who install lifts to use lifts meeting the equipment standard, to install them in accordance with the lift manufacturer’s instructions, and to ensure that specific information is made available to lift users. The purpose of the two standards is to prevent injuries and fatalities during lift operation and to promote the uniformity of Federal standards and guidelines for platform lifts. [Webmaster note: The effective date of this rule is December 27, 2004.]
Application: This standard applies to platform lifts designed to carry passengers into and out of motor vehicles, including school buses, multipupose passenger vehicles, transit buses, motorcoaches, shuttle buses, paratransit vehicles, and private use vehicles.
U.S. Federal Agencies
In the United States, state, national and local governments are entwined in the warp and woof of school bus service.
Because of the overriding concern for the safety of the youngsters it transports, the pupil transportation industry is one of the few enterprises that seek more rather than less government regulation.
The role of the federal government in the industry is not as great as the state governments, but without federal involvement, the standardization that characterizes the industry would not exist. Generally speaking, the federal government developments regulations and guidelines about various aspects of school bus safety. Occasionally Congress enacts new legislation that affects the industry. Federal agencies, in turn, develop regulations. Unlike public mass transit, the federal government does not directly fund school transportation.
Most regulatory control occurs at the state level. Currently, more than 500 laws, and countless regulations, are on the books of states in the United States governing some aspect of the industry. New ones are being added regularly.
Through the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the federal government controls the manufacturing of school buses, ensuring they are built to exacting safety standards.
Once the buses are actually on the highway state laws and regulations take over and govern the operational aspects of school buses in service.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the leading federal agency ensuring school bus safety. It administers more than 60 federal motor vehicle safety standards, including several that apply specifically to school buses. Users will find numerous links to various NHTSA programs.
- The National Transportation Safety Board investigates catastrophic school bus accidents and issues various investigatory reports. In this section users will find summaries of all the major school bus accidents that NTSB has investigated, plus key studies by the Safety Board.
- The primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. School bus service falls within its purview. Indeed, the FMCSA is the first federal agency to focus its efforts on the operational side of school transportation. It contribute to ensuring safety in motor carrier operations through strong enforcement of safety regulations such as the Commercial Driver’s License program, targeting high-risk carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers; improving safety information systems and commercial motor vehicle technologies; strengthening commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating standards; and increasing safety awareness.
- The Federal Transit Administration administers the federal mass transit program. School bus service typically does not fall under the jurisdiction of the FTA. Public transit systems may transport students so long as the service doesn’t violate the so-called “tripper” regulation. An estimed 15 percent of all trips by public transit, or about 1 billion unlinked passenger trips annually, are by students. This ridership data is similar to that on yellow school buses.
Listed here users will find two key regulatory initiatives that affect school buses and school transportation.
- A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or NPRM, is the method the federal government uses to notify citizens that new federal regulations are being proposed. NPRMs are first published in the daily federal register, and then the public is given a chance to comment on the proposal. Anyone may comment. Here, users will find the current crop of proposed rules that may one day apply to school buses and school transportation.
- Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards: In this section users will find a complete list of the 58 federal regulations governing motor vehicle safety. Of these 35 apply to school buses and several are exclusive to school buses. In addition, users will find data about Notices of Proposed Rulemaking. NPRMs are the method the federal government uses to notify citizens that new federal regulations are being proposed. Typically NPRM’s appear in the Federal Register and remain open for comment from the public for several months. Here, users will find the current crop of proposed rules governing school buses, or school transportation. Users will also find a link to the federal government’s Document Management System by which average citizens may comments on any regulatory proposal by any agency of the government.
Federal School Bus Security Threat Assessment
President Bush on Aug. 4, 2007, signed H.R. 1, a bill requiring that security risk assessments of school buses be performed within one year. The measure implements recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States and is titled “Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.”
Of particular interest to the school bus industry is Section 1538. It calls for a “comprehensive assessment of the risk of a terrorist attack on the Nation’s school bus transportation system.”
This section specifies the report shall include an assessment of the security risks to school buses including both publicly and privately operated systems, together with an assessment of actions already taken by operators or others to address identified security risks. The report will also assess whether additional actions and investments are necessary to improve the security of passengers traveling on school buses, and provide a list of such actions or investments if appropriate.
The bill directs the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to consult with administrators and officials of school systems, representatives of the school bus industry, including both publicly and privately operated systems, public safety and law enforcement officials, and nonprofit employee labor organizations representing school bus drivers.
As of August 2009, one year after the original due date of the report being presented to Congress, the threat assessment was complete but undergoing additional review at within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. William Arrington, GM of the Office of Highway and Motorcarrier at the Transportation Security Administration, said the report was to be formally presented to Congress during the fall and was expected to be released to the public by January 2010, a date that came and went. The lastest update from the feds is that Congress could release the report’s contents by spring or summer of 2010.
Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations
Pursuant to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (S.C. 1993, c. 16), the Canadian Federal government has created a number of motor vehicle safety regulations. Many of these regulations are patterned after the federal motor vehicle safety standards developed in the U.S. by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Provided here are links to the key MVSRs governing school bus construction, in total or in part. These regulations, and all others, are found on the Transport Canada Web site.
MVSR108: Lighting System and Retroreflective Devices
MVSR111: Rearview Mirrors
MVSR131: School Bus Pedestrian Safety Devices
MSVR205: Glazing Materials
MVSR208: Seat Belt Installation Requirements
MVSR209: Seat Belt Assemblies
MVSR210:Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages
MVSR217: Bus Window Retention, Release and Emergency Exits
MVSR220: School Bus Rollover Protection
MVSR221: School Bus Body Joint Strength
MVSR222: School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection
MVSR301: Fuel System Integrity
MVSR1100: Vehicle Emissions
Motor Vehicle Restraint Systems and Booster Cushions Safety Regulations
Section 6: Child Restraint Systems
Section 7: Infant Restraint Systems
School Transportation in Canada
An estimated 36,800 yellow school buses provide transportation daily to 2.5 million students, about 55% of Canada’s K-12 student population.
Like its neighbor to the south, Canada has an extensive school transportation system. And, like the United States, Canada’s school transportation system uses traditional yellow school buses, though in Quebec 46,000 students are transported to and from school by public transit buses.
School bus safety is a particular area of interest for Transport Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that covers numerous aspects of school bus safety ranging from manufacturing standards to collision investigation. It also ensures that all school buses, whether domestically produced or imported from the United States, meet the requirements of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The North American Free Trade Association, and prior to that the Auto Pact, allows easy import and export of school buses between the two countries. Thomas Built Buses has school bus manufacturing plants in Canada and is joined by Canadian bus builders A. Girardin, Inc., and Corbeil, a division of Collins Bus Corporation. These bus builders manufacture about 3,500 school buses annually. Of the total number of school buses produced annually, approximately 15 percent are small buses, 20 percent are transit-style buses, and the remaining 65 percent are conventional-style buses.
They key standard for school buses in Canada is D-250. The standard was developed under the auspices of the Canadian Standards Association. Dating back to 1975, and most recently revamped, D-250-98 codifies school bus construction. It is a voluntary standard adopted through regulation at the provincial level. D-250-98 incorporates all the relevant Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, along with some other concepts not found in CMVSS. The thrust of D-250-98 is that it is illegal to sell a school bus in Canada that does not conform to the standard. The D-250 standard is the method by which Canada ensures that school buses imported from the United States meet Canadian safety and construction standards.
Starting with D-250-98, the standards are no longer just construction standards but also 0perational standards. This means that when a school board bus a bus the bus must be Maintained to the D-250-98 standards as long as it is in service.
Copies of D-250-98 may be obtained from the Canadian Standards Association.