As they head back to school in the coming weeks, some students in Ontario will be greeted by updated lighting systems that bring older school buses into compliance with industry-wide standards.
Before the summer, Ontario school buses were not required to have the same lighting systems as other school buses used across Canada and the U.S. leading up to and during student stops. But as of July 1, the province’s Ministry of Transportation issued new regulations that require all school buses to operate an eight Lamp Amber-Red Warning System.
According to a ministry spokesman, new school bus purchases generally include the system that uses two stages of flashing overhead signal lights. Flashing overhead amber lights indicate when the school bus is coming to a stop, and flashing overhead red lights indicating the bus has stopped to pick up or drop off passengers.
Rear emergency exit doors must also have the new wording, “Do Not Pass When Red Lights Flashing.”
School bus operators that are operating buses manufactured before Jan. 1, 2005, must complete retrofits to continue operating the vehicles. These retrofits will include replacing four lenses with amber colored lights and replacing updated decals on the rear of buses, the ministry spokesman added.
Robert Monster, the safety and legislation consultant to the Ontario School Bus Association, noted that the vast majority of school buses operating in Ontario are model year 2005 or newer and already come equipped with the compliant eight-way lights. Still, another 18,000 older school buses need to be retrofitted before school starts on Sept. 1.
He relayed that bus companies operating for public school boards are compensated by the government of Ontario for the cost of the parts and the labor involved in the retrofits. He shared that the change of lamps and sign on a bus with 7-inch round lens takes around 1.3 hours labor hours. Meanwhile changing the lens assembly of a Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2, for example, takes a total of 2.9 hours per bus.
Because of the short time to convert their entire fleet, Monster said retrofits have been a large undertaking for school bus operators in Ontario. Adding to the work involved, placing large orders for parts has been challenging during the current supply chain shortage
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for contractor National Express, which operates Stock Transportation in Ontario, said the company is currently in the process of retrofitting its older school buses with the amber and red eight-way lights and decals. A total of 1,500 buses must be retrofitted, she added.
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