Big yellow school buses are a great vehicle for getting large groups of students to and from school. However, if you need to transport fewer than 25 students, a traditional bus doesn’t make financial sense.
With tight budgets, districts are always looking for ways to stretch their dollars. One area where schools have looked for savings is transportation alternatives for their students, and vendors have responded with moneysaving options. It is important that these options not only meet districts’ needs but also provide safe transportation for the students and staff who will be using the vehicles.
What is an MFSAB
One of the alternatives vendors have promoted is a Multi-function School Activity Bus (MFSAB). These vehicles have been approved by National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) as an alternative for transporting school-aged students to and from school-related activities. Unlike a typical yellow school bus, a MFSAB does not have to be yellow or have the flashing lights and traffic control arms that are required by both federal and state laws. As such, these buses cannot be used for regular school bus routes or picking up students at bus stops. These vehicles must meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for school buses in effect when the vehicle was manufactured.
Rules and regulations
According to Texas law, these vehicles must also meet the Texas Bus Specifications, developed by the Texas Department of Public Safety, that are in effect when the vehicle was manufactured. It must also be clearly identified that the bus meets the applicable standards. This can be accomplished when it is documented on the production line order secured in the vehicle or by placing the metal vehicle tag clearly on the vehicle. A district found to be operating buses that that do not meet the established safety standards or refusing to comply could lose their transportation allotment for up to a year under Texas Education Code Sec. 42.155.
Knowing the risks
Sometimes, vendors offer school districts buses that do not meet the established federal and state safety standards for MFSAB that will be used for transporting school-aged children. The vehicles are marketed as a less expensive option to a traditional school bus or even an MFSAB.
By federal law, dealers are prohibited from knowingly selling vehicles for transporting school-aged children that do not meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
School districts that buy these vehicles not only risk losing state transportation funding, but also put their students in danger because these vehicles do not meet crash protection standards, such as intrusion and roll over protection.
Some of the more obvious design features for buses that meet the FMVSS are the smaller windows, which can prevent ejection in a collision and rear emergency exits to evacuate people in an emergency. You can read more about how the Department of Transportation defines what a safe Multi-function School Activity Bus is on a ruling from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
For more information, contact your risk solutions consultant.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in July 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.