School Bus Safety, Is My Bus Overcrowded?

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School Bus Safety, Is My Bus Overcrowded?

The above question is actually way more common than oneAre your school buses overloaded? might think simply because most people would use visual clues to come to this conclusion.  Are students standing, sitting on the floor or sitting on laps?  If so then obviously yes your buses are overcrowded.  However most of the time coming to this conclusion is not that easy.  Below you will find some helpful ways to understand the answer to this question and to ensure your students are riding both comfortably and most important, safely.


  • What is the vehicle’s legal capacity?

    Your bus capacity is the number of students per bus.  For example: Is it a 72 or 54 passenger bus? Even if you know the number, is there room for wheelchair students?  If so, how many seats do they take up? Does their wheelchair fold and can they transfer to a seat?  All of the above questions come into play when understanding how many passengers can safely fit into a bus.

    • Students vs. seats:

      This is another very important detail when understanding capacity. You may have 17 students on a bus. However, five of those students may have an aide, one may have a service dog and three may use a wheelchair.  Now throw into this mix one student who also has an oxygen tank and another may take up a full bench because of their size.  All of these additional needs add up to capacity.  In all reality I have 17 students on the bus, but capacity wise I have at least 30 seats taken up. When loading a bus one must take into account number of seats not number of students.

      • Aisle ways:

        No matter what the capacity of a bus, the aisle ways should always be clear. The students should have adequate space to walk from the front to the back of the bus. If the bus is overcrowded and backpacks, instruments and miscellaneous items are in the aisle instead of under the seat or next to the student. This makes for a very dangerous situation in the event of an emergency.  In an emergency, if students need to exit the bus quickly they need the aisles open to prevent tripping and ensure they can get out of the bus in enough time.

        How to handle these issues:

        • Have a default seat size per student:

          Instead of assigning one seat per student, factor in a buffer of one and a half seats per student. This will give you a little extra space when transporting students and their belongings.

          •  Understand each student’s requirements:

            When transporting special needs students, be sure to understand their needs. Ask yourself how many seats will this student and their equipment occupy.  To be safe, every need must be considered.

            • Utilize a Software system for routing:

              A routing software system can help with all of the above.  You can set default settings for seats and also revise the seat size for an individual student to accommodate any special needs that student may have.  Also most software systems can alert you when you are going to overload your buses, based on seats not students.

              The most important thing to remember when taking all of the above into account is safety.  Students standing, sitting on the floor and sitting on each other’s laps is not safe.  It is important to understand the capacity of your fleet, and gather the details needed to make an informed decision when adding just one more student to a bus.


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