The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) addressed a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg asking to prioritize production of cutaway chassis that most Type A school bus bodies are built on.
That was one recommendation made by NSTA on Thursday, as it cited information from school bus OEMs that the current small bus supply chain disruptions could take the industry five to seven years to fully recover from “if unchecked.” The letter noted that many manufacturers are not currently operating at full capacity and are unable to meet market demand. Additionally, the purchase prices of Type A school buses have risen by 30- to 70 percent.
“NSTA calls on USDOT to work with our industry partners to address the school bus chassis shortage,” said Curt Macysyn, NSTA’s executive director. “Type-A school buses are a vital part of America’s student transportation system, and our members across the country are adversely affected by price increases, delayed delivery times, and aging of their current school bus fleets.”
NSTA added that the Department of Transportation could encourage chassis manufacturers to set aside units for student transportation services and expand the DOT Port and Infrastructure and Supply Chain Resiliency Programs to include chassis for Type A bus bodies.
Earlier this year, a report by USDOT’s Supply Chain Disruption Task Force recommended increasing domestic manufacturing of new chassis, though the focus was on chassis that transport containers on trucks and rail cars especially at ports, and not school buses transporting students to and from classes. Still, the Supply Chain Assessment for the Transportation Industrial Base: Freight and Logistics report noted that the inaccessibility of chassis has caused “ripple effects” on the supply chain and that the issue predated COVID-19. Rising material prices is one of the culprits.
NSTA also called for new economic incentives for small bus chassis productive and streamlining current procurement regulations. “The initiatives will create flexibility for manufacturers, which will help reduce the multi-year recovery period that is being forecast,” NSTA said in a statement on Thursday. “Further, the alleviation of the chassis shortage allows children to be transported from home-to school in the safest method of transportation available.”
NSTA noted that many Type A school buses are used to transport students with disabilities. Additionally, an increasing number of school districts have turned to the smaller school buses as a way around the historic driver shortage, as operators generally don’t need a commercial driver’s license.
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