Tennessee lawmakers approved legislation on Monday that sponsors said will raise the safety standards for school buses in the state and save millions in taxpayer dollars. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and amended by House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge.
The new law puts an expiration date on school buses that have been in service for longer than 18 years, unless they have logged fewer than 200,000 miles. Buses with over 18 years but under 200,000 miles may receive an annual exemption until they reach the 200,000 mile mark.
Rep. Dean said, "Under current law, before a used bus can be extended beyond 15 years, it must have four annual inspections in Tennessee. In other words, you have to drive it four years before its 15th birthday. That was changed to two annual inspections. Current law was only allowing a used bus that was less than 11 years old to be kept in service. Now they can buy one that's 13, get it inspected at 13 and 14, then it can be kept in service after 15 years old."
He said an estimated first-year taxpayer savings of $56 million "will come from the fact that local LEAs won't have to go through the cost of replacing buses that are still in good safe operating condition, just because they are 17 years old."
Rep. Travis said, “The legislation will save millions of dollars for our local governments over the next several years, ensuring that more money can be spent in our children’s classrooms.”
As chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Dean said he worked alongside Rep. Travis for the passage of the bill in the House. After holding hearings in the House Transportation Committee with school bus manufacturers, contract school bus drivers, local education agencies, and the Tennessee Department of Safety, Rep. Dean said there was "a glaring need for a compromise."
“Every party has their own priorities and their own needs, but the primary priority of the House from the beginning has been the safety of our children and the efficient use of our taxpayers’ money,” said Rep. Dean. “Rep. Travis and I have worked diligently to come up with a compromise that satisfies all involved parties but does not sacrifice what is truly important.”
The House approved the bill with a 92-0 vote. The bill cleared the Senate with a vote of 28-0 and is now on its way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
“I am truly thankful to both the Department of Safety and my colleagues in the House for their support of this bill,” said Rep. Travis. “I look forward to even more legislation in the future that not only saves money for our local communities, but also helps ensure our children are protected on a daily basis.”