Amendments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean School Bus Program (CSBP) passed before Christmas allow private contractors to have direct access to the remaining $4 billion of the program and address the requirement to keep a bus in the district to which it was awarded for a five-year span.
The National School Transportation Association expressed concerns regarding the CSBP since it was passed in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) on Nov. 15, 2021. The program provides $5 billion over five years to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and low-emission models.
In the first round of funding last year, EPA awarded nearly $1 billion in rebates for zero-emission and low-emission school buses.
The first concern raised by the NSTA was the lack of direct access for private school bus operators.
“Although the IIJA defines ‘contractor’ in its text, its definition did not encompass private school bus operators who contract with school districts to provide student transportation services,” a press release by the organization states. “Private contractors that provide nearly 40 percent of the nation’s school bus transportation had to work with their school districts or dealers to apply for the funds, which proved to be cumbersome and a deterrent to contractor participation. The technical changes passed [Dec. 23, 2022] ensures that contractors will have direct access to the remaining $4 billion of Clean School Bus Program funding.”
The second issue NSTA raised was the requirement in the law to keep a school bus in the district to which it was awarded for a full five years. The release adds that more states have statutory limits on transportation contracts with school districts, and private contractors have no control over when a contract gets bid or rebid and for how long.
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“Private school bus operators could be penalized for being unable to fulfill the five-year requirement, so this was also a deterrent for contractor participation,” NSTA added. “Amendments to the program now allow for additional flexibility in the service requirement. These two technical changes allow for greater and less complicated access to CSB funding for private school bus operators.”
The second round of the CSBP is expected to be announced this spring.