FTA Announces New Rule to Improve Transit Bus Testing, Safety, and Reliability

Bus models that fail to meet one or more minimum performance standards will be ineligible for purchase with FTA funds

FTA Announces New Rule to Improve Transit Bus Testing, Safety, and Reliability
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August 4, 2016

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced a new rule that it says will improve the process for ensuring the safety and reliability of new transit buses in communities across the country that are funded with FTA dollars.

The rule will establish a set of minimum performance standards, a standardized scoring system, and a pass-fail threshold that will better inform local transit agencies as they evaluate and purchase buses for use in their communities.

"Throughout our nation, millions of Americans rely on transit buses every day, and they expect to ride in safe, reliable vehicles that meet or exceed federal requirements," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This rule will help local transit agencies put well-tested, high-quality vehicles on the road, while streamlining the testing process."

The new bus testing rule will require newly procured buses to meet minimum thresholds in key areas such as safety, reliability, and performance. The FTA says that existing procedures used by its Bus Testing Facility will largely remain intact, but data generated will be used to apply a new 100-point scoring system to tested buses, making it easier to compare similarly sized bus models from different manufacturers.

Importantly, for the first time, bus models that fail to meet one or more minimum performance standards will "fail" their test and thus be ineligible for purchase with FTA funds until the failures are resolved. The agency says that it will be able to use this authority to make sure defects are fixed before vehicles are allowed to go into service.

"FTA is proud to support communities seeking to improve their bus transit service – a lifeline for so many to access jobs and opportunities," said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers. "Ensuring that unsafe buses never reach service protects those communities and bus passengers, and demonstrates FTA's continued commitment to making safety its number one priority."

The final rule—which comes on the heels of extensive outreach to partners across the transit industry, including transit vehicle manufacturers, component suppliers, public transit agencies, and state departments of transportation—follows the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that the FTA issued in June 2015.

Congress directed FTA to make updates to the Bus Testing Program in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). Congress first authorized the Bus Testing Program in 1987 to ensure that federal funds—which can cover up to 80% of the cost of purchasing transit buses through various grant programs—are used effectively and efficiently.