Blue Bird school buses are built in Fort Valley and make up a third of the nation’s bus fleet. They build about more than 10,000 buses a year to keep that safety record.
“You’re safer in a school bus than walking, you’re safer in a school bus than riding a bike, or in the car with your parents,” Director of Government specifications for Blue Bird Bruce Miles said.
He says school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road.
To keep kids safe, they start with an all-steel skeleton for Blue Bird buses.
“You’re surrounded by steel structure, from the chassis to the body all the way around the passenger compartment,” Miles said.
The fuel tank on a Blue Bird bus has an extra steel cage around it. Miles says that prevents it from leaking if the bus gets into an accident in real life and in a test.
“Where a 4000-pound sled is driven into the side of the bus at 30 miles an hour and it can’t have any fuel leakage is our goal in order to meet the standard,” Miles said.
The height of the bus also plays a role in the protection of children while they ride.
“Normally, a car will underride the passenger compartment and keep them safe on the bus they may feel a bump, but chances are they’re not going to be encroached on in the passenger compartment,” Miles said.
Safety doesn’t stop outside the bus, the seats are also designed with safety in mind. Miles says the interior and seat design is similar to an egg carton, therefore kids don’t need seat belts on buses.
“It’s called compartmentalization,” Miles said. “You have these very tall, close seats that are very padded. In the event of accident, they're made to absorb the energy from the children. The crash pulse on a school bus, because it’s so big and heavy, is a lot smaller and less than it would be in an automobile. That’s why automobiles require seat belts. School buses have compartmentalization to protect the children, and with a smaller crash pulses, you don’t need seat belts on them.”
Some states including Florida and New York require seat belts on buses, but Georgia does not.
When Miles sees a bus roll out of the factory, or down road, it gives him a sense of pride knowing the students inside are going to make it to school and back.
“If I had a child on a school bus, I would want them in a Blue Bird because that is the safest vehicle bar none being on the road in an accident,” Miles said.
Federal law also requires school buses to be painted National School Bus Glossy Yellow.