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The Smart Way to Save Money on Transportation

October 07, 2017 Chuck Kennedy and Clem Zabalza

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School bus safety is always of importance at the Fund, but we are reminded of it, particularly during National School Bus Safety Awareness Week October 16-20.  One way that districts can ensure school bus safety is by thoroughly inspecting their school buses prior to purchasing them. Purchasing a used school bus is one way to save money, but it is important to save money on transportation the smart and safe way.
Below are some tips to consider when purchasing a used school bus:

Have an inspection

Have the bus inspected by a trusted mechanic and research the history of the vehicle. If any vehicle in Texas is designated as a total loss or “totaled,” it will have a salvage title. There are other ways to get this designation, but check with previous owners or the Texas Department of Transportation to determine why the vehicle has a Salvage title.

Another issue to consider when purchasing used school buses is whether these units were 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; however, it is imperative to ensure that the bus can be legally operated in Texas. State law requires school districts to report purchases of used school buses (Texas Administrative Code, Title 37, Part 1, Chapter 14, Subchapter D, Rule 14.53).

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. [Section A-General, General Information, Requirements and Conditions] Texas School Bus Specifications

Several issues may arise by purchasing school buses that do not meet Texas School Bus Specifications:

  • The ability to obtain Auto Liability and Auto Physical Damage coverage could be affected
  • Potential litigation involving the purchase of a bus that does not meet Texas  School Bus Specifications
  • Public relations issues due to purchases of non-compliant buses
  • Loss of use and additional expenses for used buses that must be put out of service and brought into compliance

Get documentation

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

School districts and contractors have 30 days to report in writing to Texas Department of Public Safety the following information when a used school bus is purchased:

  • 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
  • Who manufactured the school bus, date of manufacture, and to which states' specifications the school bus was manufactured

If the district was unsure if the vehicle was originally built to Texas specs, 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". The plate shall have a space for the dealer to enter information. The dealer shall enter TX and the specification year (example TX YY). The plate shall be attached in the driver’s area. Decals and glue are not acceptable.  [Section C-Body Specifications , BODY DATA (IDENTIFICATION) PLATE]

If it does not have a metal plate, or if the plate is missing, it likely was not built to Texas Specifications.  At a recent meeting of the Specifications Committee, several manufacturers and dealers in attendance stated they knew of districts buying out-of-compliance buses, and dealers knowingly selling them.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS) 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.

Required information can be submitted to Texas Department of Public Safety. For more information, visit the TxDPS website. If you have any questions regarding information contained in this article, please contact your Risk Solutions Consultant.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in October 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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