New TN bill aims to extend school bus retirement age - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

New TN bill aims to extend school bus retirement age

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - A new bill in Tennessee could extend the life of a school bus. If approved, a school bus, regardless of age or miles, may stay on the road as long as it passes an annual inspection.

Under current law, a bus is automatically taken off the road after 17 years and cannot be used if it has more than 200,000 miles. It may be used for 12-15 years before being approved extra years to reach 17.

But state lawmakers are working to change that with this bill.

READ MORE | Tennessee House Bill 1473

If approved, the new law would remove the mileage and age limits on school buses and require at least one safety inspection per year, according to the bill's text. It goes on saying, any repairs indicated by the state's safety inspections must be made.

"This new proposal would let buses go up to 18 years regardless of mileage. And then if they have less than 200,000 miles, they can be used until they reach 200,000 miles," said Ben Coulter, Director of Transportation for Hamilton County Schools.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Vince Dean (R-East Ridge) told Channel 3 this will save local school districts almost $56 million next year.

According to the Department of Education, the average cost of a bus is $85,000. Under the new law, buses will last longer and schools won't need to buy new buses as often. Of course, theoretically, older buses may require more maintenance but the bill's Fiscal Memorandum says it makes financial sense to follow-through with the bill.

READ MORE | Tennessee Senate Bill 1605

But it's a bit different in Hamilton County where the county contracts with drivers instead of owning its own buses.

"Durham School Services is our biggest contractor with about 170-180 buses. And then we have 49 independent operators so this will help them more than it will help us. Hopefully we'll get some savings later down the road," said Coulter.

The House and the Senate already passed the bill unanimously. Governor Haslam now must decide whether to sign it into law.

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