School bus safety is always important to us at the Fund, but it’s especially worth thinking about during National School Bus Safety Awareness Week. You can save money by buying a used bus, but when you’re cutting costs, you need to make sure that safety isn’t on the cutting room floor too. Instead, save money on transportation the smart way and inspect your buses before purchasing them.
Here are a few things to do whenever you add a used vehicle to your yellow fleet.
Have an inspection
When purchasing any used bus, you should always have it inspected by a trusted mechanic and research its history. If your vehicle has a salvage title, you should reach out to its previous owners or the Texas Department of Transportation to determine why. Typically, a salvage title means that the vehicle has been designated as a total loss (“totaled”), but there may be other reasons as well.
Another issue to consider is whether your bus was originally built for use in another state. Purchasing a used bus from out of state may help keep costs down or get the vehicle more quickly, but its specifications might not be in compliance with Texas law. It is imperative to ensure that every one of your buses can be legally operated in Texas. State law requires school districts to report purchases of used school buses.
Know the requirements
Buses sold or used by Texas school districts have elevated requirements for bus specifications, primarily for safety and durability. The standards mean they should perform better in case of collision, thus reducing potential for loss.
Texas school bus specifications have the following requirement:
Dealer stock school buses and used school buses purchased or operated by a public school board (including open enrollment charter schools) and private school in Texas shall meet or exceed all Federal and the State of Texas requirements for public school buses that were in effect on the date the vehicle was ordered by the vendor from the manufacturer. -Texas School Bus Specifications [Section A-General, General Information, Requirements and Conditions]
Purchasing school buses that do not meet Texas School Bus Specifications can have serious consequences. It could put you at risk for:
- Losing your Auto coverage because your vehicle does not comply with state requirements
- Potential litigation due to the bus not meeting Texas safety laws and regulations
- Additional expenses to take the bus out of service and repair it into compliance
Avoid these risks by making sure your vehicle meets state requirements and has all the necessary paperwork and documentation before it gets on the road.
When purchasing a used vehicle, the selling dealer must provide the purchasing district with four items:
- Documentation of their "Dealer General Distinguishing Number" which is required by Texas Transportation Code, §503.029
- Documentation of the state in which the used school bus was originally manufactured
- A copy of the specifications the school bus was originally manufactured to
- Documentation of all modifications that were made to each school bus to bring it into compliance with Texas School Bus Specifications that were in place on the date the school bus was originally manufactured
File your paperwork
After purchasing a used school bus, you’ll have to file your paperwork to the state. You’ll have 30 days after the date of purchase to report the following information to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS):
- The date of purchase and delivery
- The name of the dealer and the dealer's General Distinguishing Number from whom the used school bus was purchased
- The manufacturer, date of manufacture, and to which state’s specifications the school bus was manufactured
If your district is unsure if the vehicle was originally built to Texas specifications, refer to the body data (identification) plate which has the following requirement:
Each body shall bear a permanently attached metal plate, attached with rivets, showing the name of the manufacturer, the date of body manufacture, the body serial number, and the "Maximum Design Capacity" and the “Equipped Capacity”. The plate shall be attached in the driver’s area. Decals and glue are not acceptable. -Texas School Bus Specifications [Section B-2, Bus Body and Chassis Specifications]
If it does not have a metal plate, or if the plate is missing, it likely was not built to Texas specifications. Some dealers have been caught knowingly selling out-of-compliance buses to school districts across the state, so this metal plate is an important tool to see whether your vehicle meets state regulations or not.
DPS may inspect buses purchased to verify compliance with Texas School Bus Specifications. Any used bus found out of compliance will be placed out of service until it is brought up to applicable specifications.
You can submit your required information to DPS. For more information about specifications and regulations, visit the DPS website.
Manage your fleet
Transportation safety doesn’t stop after you’ve finalized your purchase. Once you’ve added the used bus to your fleet, make sure that you follow the best practices of fleet management. Take care of your vehicles by updating your inventory with your new bus, keeping up with manufacturer-recommended preventative maintenance, and storing each vehicle securely.
Investing in effective fleet management is a surefire way to save money on your transportation budget in the long run—properly maintaining your vehicles can save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary repairs and keep each bus as safe as possible.
Help from the Fund
There’s a lot to consider when growing your fleet. If you have any questions about buying a used school bus, as well as any other questions about vehicle safety, you can reach out to your area’s Risk Solutions Consultant.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in October 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.