While official details on the new Clean School Bus Program authorized by the federal infrastructure bill signed in November have yet to be finalized, contractors might be limited to how they receive funds.
A source familiar with the program told School Transportation News that no final decisions have been made on the program, other than $5 billion to be split between zero-emission school buses, essentially electric, or low-emissions school buses powered by CNG, propane or biofuels. Program implementation details will be forthcoming later this year, the source noted.
However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public listening session last month to solicit stakeholder feedback. The new Clean School Bus Program was developed with the enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed by President Joe Biden in November. The program also includes a federal review of school bus stop safety technology.
During the listening session on Dec. 15, Claire Miller, the senior vice president of strategy, business development, marketing, and communications for contractor First Student, expressed concern that school bus contractors are so far limited in their ability to obtain grant money. She noted that contractors represent over 40 percent of student transportation in the U.S. and the current outlined plan leaves contractors ineligible to apply for the funds directly.
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Curt Macysyn, executive director of the National School Transportation Association, agreed. He told STN that currently, contractors would require “third-party interventions” to receive the funds. For instance, they would have to apply through a school district customer or potentially for a point-of-sale (POS) rebate directly from a school bus manufacturer or potentially their dealer.
“I do think these parameters limit contractor options,” Macysyn noted. “One [area] that may be helpful is a portable voucher but don’t know if the law will even allow that.”
While there is no formal deadline for comments, the EPA is encouraging interested parties to submit information by the end of January for it to be considered in a timely manner.