The State Senate approved legislation sponsored by Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) to extend the use of school buses, as long as they meet additional inspection requirements. Senate Bill 1966 authorizes the use of conventional and Class D school buses until they have reached their 18th year of service. The Commissioner of Safety, through the inspection process, may approve the use of buses for additional years of service beyond the 18th year, if the bus has less than 200,000 recorded miles.
“This will allow our local school districts to get a little more life out of our school buses,” said Senator Bell. “It gives local communities more flexibility to extend the use of a school bus which is deemed mechanically safe for transporting children. We have put into place additional inspections to ensure that they are in good operating order before the life of that bus can be extended.”
Currently, school buses in Tennessee are allowed to operate up to 15 years with a 200,000 mile limit, whichever comes first, if they pass additional inspections.
“The surrounding states are like vultures over our school districts waiting on a bus to end its time, either through mileage or age in the state of Tennessee,” said Senator Bell. “They are snatching those buses up and using them sometimes five and 10 years longer. When you look at statistics, there is no difference of the safety of the children in those states than the state of Tennessee.”
The legislation requires school buses which are 16 to 18 years old to be inspected twice annually. It also allows a bus that reaches the 200,000 mile mark during the academic year to be kept in service until the end of the academic year. The legislation is expected save local school districts approximately $56 million.
All buses that have been in service for 15 years or less shall be inspected once annually under the proposal. The bill funds four additional Department of Safety positions this year and two next year to inspect the buses to ensure student safety.
Studies show that school buses are the safest mode of travel, in terms of miles driven and the number of injuries or deaths.