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Evolutionary Timeline of the American School Bus


The first school bus appeared as communities started using converted farm vehicles with benches along the insides and a rear entry gate so the horses wouldn’t be frightened when children climbed aboard. They were known as “school wagons” or “kid hacks”. They were very basic modes of transportation that didn’t even have a top to protect children from snow or rain.

During this period, thirty-one states collectively passed compulsory education laws with Massachusetts being the first. Getting children to and from school other than via the horse-drawn “hack” had become a vital issue.


With more cars on the road, the first motorized school buses also appeared. However, they continued to be basic wooden vehicles with side bench seating and only a tarp stretched over a frame to provide protection from inclement weather.


The first steel-bodied bus with safety glass windows and forward-facing seats was introduced by a Ford dealership owner in Georgia. This Model-T replica school bus now resides at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.


Standardization came about at a conference at Columbia University in New York City that developed 44 required standards for school buses that covered everything from interior dimensions to the famous yellow color that we see today.


The one-room schoolhouse had all but disappeared. Schools were consolidated into larger building complexes that were further apart and therefore busing became a necessity. At the same time, safety was the paramount issue not only in the design of the buses, but also in the training of the drivers.


Mandatory CDL (commercial drivers licenses) were required to insure that drivers of these large vehicles had consistent training across the various counties in New York and other states.


The result of this transportation evolution in equipment and driver training is that today, school buses are considered among the safest vehicles on the road.


The evolution in school bus technology and innovation continues. Become a part of it all by joining the Award-winning Huntington Coach team! Call 631 271-8931 today.