Tennessee bill would extend lifetime of school buses

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The school buses that pick up your children each morning, and take them home each night may soon be allowed to keep making those runs years longer.

A bill proposed by an East Tennessee lawmaker is moving through the legislature, and while the bill could save money, the extra years on the road, leaves safety of students as a concern.

The big yellow buses that take your kids to and from school everyday, cost a lot of green!

Greg Gentry is the general manager for Gentry School Bus Line in Knox County and he says, "The last two [buses] we bought were around $100,000 each, so they are really expensive"

Which is exactly why Legislators want to increase the number of years on the road for Tennessee school buses.

Greg says, "It would be good for the bottom line for us obviously, if we can use them for a longer extended period of time as long as we keep our maintenance up."

Gentry School Bus Line runs 19 buses for Knox County Schools, and Greg is pleased with the idea of extending the life of their buses.

Greg says, "Your car, personal vehicle, if it's taken care of, it'll take care of you."

And maintenance requirements is the other big change included in the bill sponsored by East Tennessee Senator Ken Yager.

Senator Yager says, "The responsibility for the safety of school buses is being turned over the Department of Safety, which has strong support from the Department of Education, which formerly had this responsibility."

The bill, SB0023, will allow a school bus to run for two more years than they can now, which puts it at 17 years old, or 200,000 miles.

But the Legislation also doubles the maintenance checks by the state to every 6 months.

Senator Yager says, "Actually, the bill improves the safety of our school buses."

Knox County Schools officials say they just want the safety of students to remain the number one concern.

Russ Oaks, spokesperson for Knox County Schools, says, "At this point, given the regulations in place, the inspection requirements, and the mileage cap, we don't see any reason to be concerned."

Greg Gentry says, "Anything is going to wear out eventually, but I think 17 years shouldn't be a problem at all with it."

The bill easily passed both the state Senate and the House, and is now ready for Governor Bredesen to decide if he wants to sign it.

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