China’s school bus crisis
Reacting to a high number of school bus accidents, the Chinese central government recently instituted a fast-track review of the regulations relating to these vehicles. This in turn led to the compilation of revised technical standards.
The new standards recognise two classes of scholar transport vehicles, namely light school buses (five to six metres in length), and medium to large school buses (six to 12 metres in length), both of which can be of bonneted or forward-control layout.
Additional requirements include a minimum power-to-mass ratio of nine kW per tonne, and the achievement of a specified roll-over performance.
Better regulation of school buses is to be achieved through a three-year programme, during which compliance with the revised standards will be encouraged by the payment of subsidies.
It has been estimated that China currently has some 29 000 purpose-built school buses, while the 300 000 remaining vehicles also being used for scholar transport are, essentially, standard service buses or minibuses.
A school bus exhibition held in Beijing in February 2012 saw 23 manufacturers display nearly 50 purpose-designed school bus models.
Among the more prominent exhibitors were:
• Yutong, with bonneted 55-, 37- and 33-passenger units
• Higer, with 36-passenger bonneted and 53-passenger forward-control buses
• Xiamen King Long, with 50- and 39-passenger forward-control buses as well as
a 46-passenger bonneted unit
• Xiamen Golden Dragon, with 57-passenger forward-control and 55-passenger bonneted units
• Zhongtong, with a 56-passenger bonneted bus
• JAC, with forward-control models seating 54 and 70 passengers
• Shanghai Sunlong, with a 42-seater bonneted unit
• FAW, with a 40-passenger bonneted bus, and
• Beiqi Foton, whose forward-control units offered 66- or 55-seater configurations.
It’s interesting to note that China has chosen to follow the American pattern of using both bonneted and forward-control school buses in an apparent attempt to ensure effective driver monitoring and supervision of boarding and alighting students.