published Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Old school buses can stay in use longer under bill headed to Tennessee governor

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    Buses line the parking area behind the Hamilton County Schools Central Office.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
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Should school buses be used beyond 200,000 miles?

NASHVILLE -- Older Tennessee school buses will be able to stay on the road longer under a bill barreling toward Gov. Bill Haslam.

The bill, which is projected to save local school systems an estimated $56 million in the 2014/2015 school year alone, was given final approval by the House on Monday following its passage last week by senators.

Sponsored by Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, the bill authorizes the use of conventional and Class D school buses until their 18th year of service. Buses that are older can go beyond that time limit provided they have less than 200,000 miles and are inspected twice annually.

Currently, school buses in Tennessee are allowed to operate up to 15 years with a 200,000 mile limit, whichever comes first, if they pass additional inspections.

The bill is a compromise between warring school districts and bus manufacturers with some schools' officals charging the current limits were put in place to encourage more bus sales. Schools maintain the buses with up to 400,000 miles can operate safely given adequate inspections and there was a bill to do just that.

“The legislation will save millions of dollars for our local governments over the next several years, ensuring that more money can be spent in our children’s classrooms,” Travis said in a statement.

Bell, the Senate sponsor, said last week that states outside Tennessee wait like "vultures" to buy perfectly good buses that are deemed unusable under state law.

House Transportation Commissioner Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, said his panel held hearings with school bus manufacturers, contract school bus drivers, local education agencies and Safety Department officials.

The need for a compromise was "glaring," Dean said.

“Every party has their own priorities and their own needs, but the primary priority of the House from the beginning has been the safety of our children and the efficient use of our taxpayers’ money,” Dean said in a news release. “Rep. Travis and I have worked diligently to come up with a compromise that satisfies all involved."

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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