NHTSA: School Bus Under Ride Study to Begin Next Month

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School Transportation News confirmed that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will include school buses in an upcoming, updated study of under ride crashes involving heavy commercial vehicles.

Last fall, news came out of a School Bus Manufacturers Technical Council meeting in Louisville, Ky., held during the NAPT and NASDPTS conferences, that NHTSA was making the consideration as part of its efforts to add to data it obtained during a similar study performed by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) on truck tractors and single unit trucks. NHTSA recently told School Transportation News that the new study will also be conducted by UMTRI and is scheduled to begin in March 2010.

It is expected to last one year with publicized results available by mid- to late-2011.

The school transportation industry passed a resolution at the 2005 National Congress on School Transportation asking the feds to study the number of crashes that can occur when a school bus stops or slows down but a motorist who is traveling too close to the rear of the bus crashes into it. In its 1997-1998 study of truck trailers and single unit trucks, UMTRI determined that under ride forces occurred to the striking vehicle in 61 percent of the 853 total crashes occurred, which resulted in 565 deaths to passengers in the striking vehicle.

The typical Type C conventional or Type D transit school bus has ground clearance at the rear bumper of up to 30 inches, whereas many passenger cars have front ends that are only 25 to 28 inches high. A concern in the industry is that changing the structural integrity of the school bus to better protect motorist could result in the unintended consequence of shifting more crash forces to the students riding the bus.