NAPA, CA – The Napa Unified School District purchased seven brand new electric/hybrid school buses, to which the district hopes to add green rub rails for easier identification and safety purposes. However, California state law mandates that all school bus bodies must be painted yellow, with black stripes, and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has refused an exemption for the green stripes that would match the already permitted green bumpers.
In the letter rejecting the exemption, CHP Commissioner J. A. Farrow stated that “in the interest of pupil and public safety, the policy of maintaining a clean image of the yellow school bus is imperative to ensure emergency responder and public recognition of school buses.”
The letter came as a response to a request of exemption from Ralph Knight, supervisor of transportation for the Napa Valley Unified School District, which also came with letters of support.
Richard Battersby, director of the East Bay Clean Cities Coalition and fleet manager for the University of California at Davis, brought the issue to the attention of Government Fleet. He authored one of the letters of support in favor of the green stripes, citing the ability to easily identify an alternative-fuel vehicle for the safety of school children as well as emergency response personnel in the event of a catastrophe.
“Alternative fuel and hybrid school busses may have different operating requirements, special repair procedures, or even unique parameters such as evacuation procedures that all bus drivers, emergency response crews, and even vehicle repair technicians must be able to ascertain immediately at a glance,” he wrote in the letter. Additionally, the letter stated that alternative-fuel vehicles have different extraction and emergency response requirements, and it is imperative that emergency responders can immediately identify the type of vehicle they are handling.
Responding to Commissioner Farrow’s letter, Knight stated, “I agree with these recommendations to keep the school bus very distinguishable as a vehicle transporting our school children… [but] why would we not want to include first responders with the safety needed to deal with this clean bus?”
He further added that the states of Nevada and Colorado allow for school bus rails to be painted green. Referring to Farrow’s reference of stickers on the right rear of buses distinguishing alternative fuel vehicles, he stated that these are only for CNG and propane and not hybrid vehicles.
Knight concluded by stating: “I see nothing here that will any way do anything but make school transportation safe for everybody.”
By Thi Dao