Heavier Passengers Bring Change to Transit Bus Testing

The Federal Transit Administration proposed a change in its bus testing protocols March 14 because its current assumption, 150 pounds per passenger, is no longer accurate.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is changing how transit buses are tested to verify they can withstand the rigors of regular transit service. The change boosts the average assumed weight per passenger from 150 to 175 pounds and the assumed dimensions for a standing passenger from 1.5 square feet of free floor space to 1.75 square feet of free floor space "to acknowledge the expanding girth of the average passenger."

The higher weight is based on suggestions from commenters and statistical National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from CDC, but it is not as high as the Federal Aviation Administration's 190-pound summer weight and 195-pound winter weight average assumptions for passengers or the U.S. Coast Guard's 185-pound assumed average weight per person.

In its NPRM, FTA noted that it "wishes to emphasize that it is not proposing the increase to 175 pounds in order to 'toughen' the testing protocol. Rather, this action is being proposed in order to ensure that the Bus Testing protocols better reflect the actual loads that buses are already carrying in service today."

The tests are done with a full load of seated and standing passengers represented during the gross vehicle weight portion and with all seats filled during the seated load weight portion "because FTA believes data on how a bus performs under fully loaded conditions is essential to the purchaser in supporting acquisition decisions, developing preventive maintenance schedules, and budgeting for unscheduled maintenance. In addition, purchasing a vehicle appropriate for actual operating conditions will lessen premature structural fatigue and assist in avoiding catastrophic failures caused by overstressed and overworked structural and operational components, ensuring the availability of such vehicles for passenger service," the notice states.

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