Final Rule Aims to Boost Transit Buses' Safety
A new scoring system addresses these categories: structural integrity, safety, maintainability, reliability, fuel economy, emissions, noise, and performance.
The Federal Transit Administration has issued a final rule intended to improve the process for ensuring the new transit buses bought with its funds are safe and reliable. The rule sets minimum performance standards, a standardized scoring system, and a pass-fail threshold for use by local transit agencies as they evaluate and buy buses.
"Throughout our nation, millions of Americans rely on transit buses every day, and they expect to ride in safe, reliable vehicles that meet or exceed federal requirements," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "This rule will help local transit agencies put well-tested, high-quality vehicles on the road while streamlining the testing process."
The rule creates a scoring system based on a 100-point scale to help buyers compare vehicles. The standards and scoring system address these categories: structural integrity, safety, maintainability, reliability, fuel economy, emissions, noise, and performance. Buses must meet a minimum performance standard in each category to earn an overall passing score and be eligible for purchase using FTA
FTA's rule says in order to minimize disruption to transit vehicle manufacturers, consistent with its June 2015 draft proposal, the rule adopts many of the existing testing procedures and standards used under the current bus testing program. But it does make some changes, including:
- New inspections at bus check-in to verify the bus configuration is within its weight capacity rating at its rated passenger load and an inspection to
determine whether the major components of the test bus match those identified in the Buy America pre-audit report
- Elimination of the on-road fuel economy testing and substituting fuel economy results obtained during the emissions test
- Revision to the payloading procedure to recognize the manufacturer's "‘standee" passenger rating
The final rule does not add any new test.
Bus models that fail to meet one or more minimum performance standards will fail their test and thus be ineligible for purchase with FTA funds until the failures are resolved, and FTA will be able to use its authority to make sure defects are fixed before vehicles are allowed to go into service.
"FTA is proud to support communities seeking to improve their bus transit service – a lifeline for so many to access jobs and opportunities," said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers. "Ensuring that unsafe buses never reach service protects those communities and bus passengers and demonstrates FTA's continued commitment to making safety its number one priority."
FTA's Bus Testing Program is conducted by Pennsylvania State University's Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute in Altoona, Pa.