This category covers establishments engaged primarily in operating buses to transport pupils to and from school. School bus establishments operated by educational institutions are considered auxiliaries. This category does not include companies offering only bus manufacturing or maintenance.
School and Employee Bus Industry
There were 4,287 establishments in this industry in 2001, employing 168,940 total workers with a payroll of $2.47 billion. About 43 percent were small organizations with fewer than 10 employees. In 2000, there were 1,960 school bus drivers earning a median hourly wage of $8.82. As of 1999, nearly half of the nation's children—24 million—rode buses to and from school. Sixty percent of all school buses were owned and operated by individual school districts, many maintaining as few as one or two buses; the remaining 40 percent of vehicles belonged to private companies that contracted their services with school districts.
Largely unregulated until the latter part of the twentieth century, the school bus industry began with the manufacture of vehicles owned by individual schools and districts and developed concurrently with the automobile industry. In the late 1960s, bus companies were exposed, peripherally, to the struggle for racial integration of American schools and, more directly in the early 1970s, to the automobile safety movement led by activist Ralph Nader. In the 1990s, bus companies continued to be subject to national and state safety legislation; during this time, a debate over the need for school bus seat belts was tabled, as advocates on either side of the issue failed to turn up conclusive information.
Safety issues have largely impelled innovations in the school bus industry. In August 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced an extensive two-year research program to consider alternative methods for potentially improving federal school bus passenger crash protection requirements. Nevertheless, fatalities in school bus-related accidents continued to decline, with a 19 percent reduction in deaths from 1980 to 1990. In the 1990s, there was an average of 32 school-age children fatalities each year.
Since many fatalities occurred when buses hit riders passing through the bus driver's blind spot, some buses were being equipped with automatic "crossing gates" that swung out when the bus stopped, forcing children...