New Jersey School Bus Task Force Recommends Changes
TRENTON, N.J. (March 20, 2006) – A state school bus task force instrumental in creating a report on pupil transportation said the recommendations are designed to drive legislation for years to come.
The bipartisan, legislative Commission on Business Efficiency of the Public Schools – formed in 1979 and consisting of two state senators, two state representatives and four governor appointees – with the help of its 24-member Transportation Task Force published “Finding the Road: Selected Issues in New Jersey Pupil Transportation” in February. It made 16 recommendations in all to lawmakers, including an increase in the operating lifespan of school buses and an innovative new plan for neighboring school districts to better share fleets and drivers.
Citing advances in construction and proper maintenance programs, the task force recommended that school districts keep all school buses in operation, starting with the 2007 model year, until the vehicles reach 15 years in age. Currently state school districts employ a 12-year moratorium on school buses before retiring them.
“We run a pretty tight ship in most cases,” said Christopher Bluett, a task force member and the transportation director for Hanover Park Regional High School District in Morris County, about 25 miles west of New York City. “We have a 12-year bus and a 20-year bus (plan) so we’re consolidating that. It would make sense to use (15 years). It’s still in good shape.”
The task force also recommended school districts and contractors to “more rigorously review and maintain buses, currently in service, with a use life of 20 years to ensure their safety.” Additionally, school bus life could be extended provided “economically feasible and measurable means of determining the quality and extent of refurbishment is developed.”
The report also recommended the creation of a regional transportation coordinator in each county to more efficiently share school bus resources among area school district. The task force found earlier attempts by the state to consolidate and coordinate pupil transportation services to be limited in terms of success because coordinated route design and provisions for coordinated transportation services were often placed within the same entity. As a result routes often benefited the route designer, i.e. the school district, rather than students. The new county office would analyze all current pupil transportation services – including public, private and special education – to determine how services could improve through coordination efforts. The task force found that cost efficiencies could be realized by properly utilizing routes, including the sharing of buses, drivers and aids, with reduced travel time and improved service coverage as a result.