At its annual mid-winter meeting on the Caribbean island of Curacao, members of the National Association of School Transportation discussed the potential incremental costs for school buses that could originate from a final rule and that those costs potentially could come at the expense of safe rides to and from school for students.
EPA and NHTSA jointly announced the proposed rule on Nov. 30 that would create a Heavy Duty National Program to reduce GHG emissions by 250 million metric tons and to save approximately 500 million barrels of oil during the life cycles of medium- and heavy-duty fleet vehicles sold between 2014 and 2018. The proposed rule would require manufacturers to achieve emission reductions of 7 to 10 percent by model-year 2017, and manufacturers would be offered the flexibility on how best to meet that target using engine design, aerodynamics and tire technologies along with hybrid powertrain technologies.
According to the feds, transportation accounts for 72 percent of oil usage, with heavy-duty vehicles accounting for 17 percent of that amount.
School buses, transit buses and motorcoaches fall under the rule’s vocational vehicle category. For vocational vehicles, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards starting in the 2014 model year that would achieve up to a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by the 2018 model year. NSTA said work on understanding the full implications of the rules remained to be performed with the school bus OEMs, but EPA and NHTSA estimated the average incremental costs for all vocational vehicles would rise a few hundred dollars from 2014 through 2018.
Specifically, school buses could cost an additional $374 in 2014; $367 in 2015; $400 in 2016; $392 in 2017; and $359 in 2018.
“School buses are the safest vehicle on the road thanks to decades of work by NHTSA and bus manufacturers to ensure that school children are transported in the safest vehicles possible,” read the draft statement circulated in Curacao. “NSTA members welcome efforts to improve fuel economy for school buses but are concerned that efforts to improve fuel economy not come at the expense of reducing safety for school children riding on the school buses.
“We applaud measures intended to provide manufacturers with flexibility on how best to meet the standard but recommend that the rule should be modified to allow safety to override fuel economy and GHG emissions reductions, at least for school buses.”
According to Gabe Rosza, managing director of NSTA federal lobbying firm Prime Policy Group, further discussion on the draft position was held during the NSTA Manufacturers, Suppliers, and Technology Committee Meeting and Government Relations meetings. Rosza added that the group came to no conclusions at this writing but that a formal comment from NSTA to the federal docket could result.
The NPRM public comment period closes at the end of this month.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article indicated that NSTA’s draft position was an approved statement.