For the families of school-aged children, school buses have become a part of everyday life. Students may take as many as 4,600 trips on a school bus during the course of their K-12 education.
Many of us may not give these big yellow vehicles a second thought, but the history of this mode of transportation is worth noting and appreciating.
The origin of the school bus can be traced back to the late 1800s when horse-drawn carriages were used to transport students to and from school. This was one of the first steps towards the dissolution of the one-room schoolhouse. Students were now able to travel to larger, consolidated schools that offered classes separated by grade level.
In 1939, education expert Frank Cyr organized a conference at Columbia University with the objective of creating national construction standards for school buses. At the time there were no country-wide regulations for American school buses. It was at this conference that the iconic yellow-orange color was chosen for the school bus.
School bus transportation has become the largest mass transit system in the United States, according to The Smithsonian. About 25 million children travel on nearly 500,000 school buses each weekday.
School bus construction standards have evolved over the years and the buses are now considered one of the safest modes of transportation. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a school bus instead of traveling by car.
The National Congress on School Transportation meets about every five years to vote on updates to school bus standards and operating procedures. In 2020, the conference will take place in May in Des Moines, Iowa. The proposals scheduled to be discussed during this year’s conference can be found here.
School buses have played an important role in the evolution of the American education system. Thanks to the hard work of many education experts and transportation officials, they now safely transport millions of students to and from school and activities each day.