Ways the Yellow School Bus Changed Over Time

Whenever you see a school bus on the road, you might wonder, “Why is the school bus yellow? Why not red, white, or any other color?” or “Why does the school bus look a bit different from the other buses?”

You might be surprised that the yellow hue wasn’t always the standard.

Would you also believe that the earliest school “buses” were once horse-drawn carriages?

If those things have caught your curiosity, you could learn about the history of the school bus and how it has evolved into the iconic yellow school bus today.

Early beginnings

We’ve mentioned horse-drawn carriages earlier. While schools may no longer use this option today, it was the starting point for one of the most valuable vehicles regularly used for transporting students.

Before the advent of school transportation, children walked or rode farm wagons to get to and from school. Walking or a farm wagon was how most students went to school even after the 1880s, as the pace of technology wasn’t as rapid as it is now.

In 1896, the Wayne Works company manufactured horse-drawn wagons for transporting students to and from school. These horse-drawn wagons were known as “school hacks” or “kid hacks.”

By the 1910s, the automotive industry had experienced a boom, and more cars had begun taking up the roads. These school hacks were upgraded from horse-drawn to completely motorized. Manufacturers also added more seating areas. However, the design of these newly motorized carriages was basically the same as their horse-drawn counterparts.

Safety updates (and concerns)

These motorized school hacks, despite the upgrade, offered little protection from the weather. But that was about to change. Wayne Works introduced a school transportation vehicle with an all-steel body design, which offered better safety features and protection from the weather.

In 1927, a car dealership entrepreneur named A. L. Luce introduced the first bus that used steel panels. Three years later, Wayne Works built the first all-steel body design that offered more safety features and protection from the weather.

The popularity of the school buses grew, but so did the parents’ concerns for their children’s safety. Such increasing concerns led Dr. Frank Cyr to organize a conference at the University of Manhattan in 1939. The conference endeavored to develop school bus standards.

Turning yellow

The 1939 conference was successful, leading to the creation of 44 new national standards for school buses. These standards determined everything, from the interiors to seating configurations. But the most notable change was the coloring of the bus’s exterior, which was bright yellow. Studies have shown that yellow is the most visible color to the human eye. Yellow could easily be seen in the early morning light when the school buses operate.

Thirty-five states immediately switched to painting their school buses yellow, but it wasn’t until 1974 that all 50 states finally implemented this change.

The safest mode of transportation

Since then, numerous design tweaks, innovations, modifications, and improvements have been made to the school bus. Subsequently, additional standards have become necessary to develop a mode of transportation that adequately protects its young passengers.

Here are the essential safety features of the modern school bus:

  • Compartmentalized seating that keeps the children safe without the use of seatbelts
  • Flashing red lights
  • Cross-view mirrors
  • Stop-sign arm
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Multiple emergency exits
  • Safety locks
  • Windows and flat bars
  • First aid boxes

More school buses have adopted more recent safety features, such as:

  • Advanced GPS
  • CCTV cameras
  • Child reminder system – Automatically reminds the drivers to inspect the bus. This feature is handy because it helps the driver check whether there are kids who suddenly forget to get off the bus or fall asleep.

Over the decades, yellow school buses have become increasingly valuable in making school transport easier, safer, and more accessible for students. At You Behind the Wheel, we understand and advocate for school transportation safety standards to be enforced and implemented to ensure safe rides for all students across the United States.

Are you looking for the next career shift? Driving a school bus can be a fulfilling career, especially if you like driving, love kids, and desire to become a better part of your community. Check out https://schoolbushero.com/jobs and explore job openings that may be suitable for you.