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Bus Procurements

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. My company plans to procure inter-city busses. Hence, I would like to find out what would be the industry practice for Bus Maintenance period which the contractor will be liable upon receiving final payment (taking over).

A. The best source for determining transit industry practices regarding bus procurements would be the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). APTA publishes a book on the Standard Industry Bus Procurement Guidelines that may be useful to you. They could also talk to you about the practices of their industry members. Their phone number is 202-496-4800 and their web site address is

Q. I am looking for a standard form of RFP for a cut-away (body on chassis) and a smaller than 29' low floor so that I can design ones for our future purchases. Do you have these?

A. We do not have any examples of RFPs. However, listed below are some names and phone numbers of transit agency personnel that are involved with bus procurements and may be able to assist you.

  • Paul Como - Houston MTA - 713-739-4803
  • Reggie Lovelace - Chicago CTA - 312-681-2410
  • Lucy Jackson - Washington DC WMATA - 202-962-1851
  • Joel Abraman - New Flyer Bus Co. - 203-387-5791 (Joel can give you some other agency names that have solicited proposals from his company - New Flyer).

Q. Is there a “required” number of years for which parts must be made available by the manufacturer? I have always believed 18 was the “magic number.” What if any is the current requirement? Boards and districts here in Texas often use School buses in excess of 18 years. I teach that fleet age needs to be less than that, and one of the reasons I typically give is based on this belief about manufacturing of parts and responsibility for the inventory and availability of parts. I thought it might be in Circular 4220, but have not found it.

A. FTA has no requirements on school bus parts availability. You should inquire of the agency that provides your Federal funding to determine if they have a statutory or regulatory provision on the subject.

Q. Let's say the state contract is for 100 buses of various seating configurations and 95 of the vehicles purchased on this contract meet the seating configurations offered in the contract. Transit Agency ABC needs to purchase 5 buses which would require the vehicle to be extended 2 feet to add an additional row of seating (four seats), which is a seating configuration not offered on the contract. If the cost of doing this can be justified as meeting the average cost in the industry, can they proceed with the purchase? I've checked and the cost of doing this modification is less than $2,000 per bus. In this case, it would be less than an additional $10,000. The total contract is for $6,000,000. $10,000 represents less than .2% of the total contract. If Transit Agency ABC were to bid these five vehicles on their own, the individual bus price would probably skyrocket (100 bus bid vs. a 5 bus bid), not to mention the additional cost of administering the new procurement.

A. In view of the information you have provided, we feel that the change in seating configuration should be permissible under the changes clause. The additional cost of less than $2,000 per bus certainly suggests that such a minor change could have been within the contemplation of the parties when the original competition was being conducted, and it certainly does not change the nature of the bus under contract. In addition, issuance of a change order would appear to be the most cost effective way to meet your agency's needs. As you note, the base price in this contract reflects a 100 bus bid vs. a five bus bid if you had to re-procure the buses in a new procurement action.

Q. Can a grantee obtain a letter from a vendor/manufacturer stating that the vehicle being offered meets GSA pricing and then purchase small buses from that vendor with a bid process?

A. Grantees are not authorized to use the GSA contract schedules at this time. The fact that a vendor has a contract with the Federal General Services Administration does not authorize grantees to contract with that vendor on a non-competitive basis. The issue of whether the GSA price can be construed as a fair and reasonable price is not the first issue here. The first issue here is the FTA Circular 4220.1E requirement for full and open competition when using Federal funds (paragraph 8.a of the Circular). Grantees can only contract non-competitively if they process sole-source justifications through their agency management, setting forth the reasons why competition is not feasible and getting management approval for the action. To do otherwise is to risk Federal participation in the procurement when FTA learns of the contract award, either through a protest from a vendor that was not allowed the opportunity to bid, a procurement system review (PSR) done by FTA, or some other means.

Q. I have been told that there is now an updated version of the original bus procurement guidelines. If this information is valid, please advise where I may find them.

A. You should contact the American Public Transit Association (APTA) at 202-496-4800 or online at

Q. Our organization will be purchasing hybrid (electric-diesel) buses in the near future. We are in the planning stages and looking for procurement/performance specifications and guidelines. Does APTA have hybrid specifications currently available, or will they have in the near future, either for the entire bus or the diesel-electric drive? On a related query, I have recently become aware of TRB Project C-14, of which I understand APTA is the performing organization. We are very interested in this project and on the mechanism for identifying member's needs, as well as plans for future standards. Can you provide any information pertaining to C-14 that might be relevant in this regard?

A. We would suggest you contact APTA at 202-496-4800. APTA's Internet address is

Q. Does the Davis-Bacon Act, or the Contract Work Hours & Safety Standards Act apply to a procurement for the overhauling of busses?

A. The Davis-Bacon Act is applicable only to construction contracts and would not apply to a contract for the overhaul of buses. The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act would apply to your contract. You can obtain guidance on the use of a contract clause from the Best Practices Procurement Manual (BPPM),Appendix A, Clause #17. See those portions that would apply to non-construction contracts.

Q. Is it true that for buses purchased with FTA funds the manufacturer must produce a prototype bus? If so, where in Best Practices or FTA Circular 4220.1D is it cited? When would it be applicable?

A. We are not aware of any FTA requirement that grantees must procure a prototype vehicle if they are purchasing buses. Many transit agencies will obtain a first vehicle, which they may call a prototype, in order to conduct testing, in-house review and approval of seating/configurations, etc. before the contractor initiates the production run. The usual time period between delivery of the prototype and the first production vehicles can run from 3 to 6 months depending on what tests you have set up and how long you may want to run the first vehicle in service before committing to the production. Some agencies send the first bus to the HVAC supplier and do the Houston pull-down testing, or the Picos TX facility -engine running and cooling tests, etc. This is a practice that is done often with new types of vehicles or new technology systems. In summary, obtaining a prototype vehicle is a common practice. It provides you with the opportunity of seeing if any configuration or integration problems exist before building a lot of vehicles that may have defects that could have been avoided.

Q. Can an RFP be conducted for the repowering of older buses, replacement of older route signs with All LED signs and installation of voice annunciation system? Where can I find a sample RFP for such a procurement or one for engine repowering.

A. You must first determine that your State procurement statutes allow for the use of RFP's and do not require sealed bidding for this type of procurement. State laws vary on this point.

Federal requirements as published in FTA Circular 4220.1E require full and open competition as a principle, but you can satisfy that requirement with RFP's (negotiated procurements) as well as sealed bidding. So the answer is that FTA would have no problem with an RFP as long as your State laws allow it also.

As you may know, FTA has published a "Best Practices Procurement Manual (BPPM)" for grantees, and the subject of Negotiated Procurements is covered in Section 4.5 "Competitive Proposals (Request for Proposals)" of the manual.

One transit agency we know of that uses RFP's for bus procurements is New York City Transit. You may call Mr. Ira Tillman at (718) 694-4218 to discuss that agency's experience with RFP's on bus- related procurements. Another source of information would be Mr. Rocco Rutledge, Purchasing Manager at PACE Bus in Chicago. His number is (847) 228-2493.

Other Relevant Contact Information is as follows:

John Baumer, Inland Detroit Diesel: (630) 871-1111
Bill Griffin, Jimmy Diesel: (708) 482-4500

Blitz: Barry Hornecker - (312) 762-7600
Hauseman: Bob O'Brian - (708) 299-9900
TSG: Len Armstrong - (219) 932-3000
ABC: Harry Powell - (847) 824-9460

Q. How many heavy-duty transit buses are purchased on an annual basis?

A. We contacted the American Public Transit Association (APTA) for information regarding transit bus purchases by their member agencies. On January 1, 1999 there were approximately 7,000 heavy-duty buses on order by U.S. transit agencies. This number would include all buses of 30' length and larger. On this date also, agencies reporting plans to purchase approximately 13,000 more heavy duty buses that were not yet under contract. The contact point at APTA for further information is Mr. Jerry Trotter at 202-496-4887.

Q. Our organization will be purchasing over the road buses powered by duel fuel engines burning CNG and diesel. I am trying to search for any existing bus specifications for this type of bus. Any help would be great!

A. I am not aware of any "duel fuel" (CNG and Diesel) buses being used in transit, and I am not aware of any specification for such buses. There are some transit duel "mode" buses, such as the Seattle electric bus (overhead wire) that also has a diesel engine for off wire operations, but again, I do not know of any industry standard specification for such buses.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has completed Standard Procurement Specifications, both technical and procurement, which are available on its website. The bus is diesel fueled. A separate Addendum for a CNG powered bus has been completed, but I'm not sure if it is available to the public. However, both of those specifications are for a single fuel transit bus. A contact at APTA is Jerry Trotter, (202) 496-4887.

Q. The APTA Standard Bus Procurement Guidelines sets forth 15 years for parts availability. Does this apply to software and other hi-tech equipment/components, such as CPUs, hard drives, cameras, diagnostic equipment, and other on-board technical equipment?

A. We would suggest you contact Mr. Jerry Trotter, Manager-Bus Programs, APTA, at (202) 496-4800. He can advise you of APTA's recommendations regarding software and other hi-tech equipment.

Q. Are there any grants available school districts for diesel hybrid school buses?

A. In answer to your question about grants for school buses, this is to advise that FTA does not fund school bus transportation

Q. Can a financing agency place a lien on a bus that has been partially financed with federal funds?

A. The fact that a bus was acquired partially with Federal funds would not bar a financing agency from placing a lien on the bus. FTA does not take an ownership interest in its federally assisted property.

Q. Is there a "one stop" information document that identifies the requirements / regulations which must be complied with relative to FTA funding (80 percent) for bus procurements?

A. We are not aware of any one–stop shopping place for bus procurement guidance and requirements.

Q. Are there any statistics on an average value of spare parts inventory for a bus fleet (per bus and/ or by total asset investment)? I know fleet diversity and age are important factors.

A. We are not aware of any national bus parts inventory data but you may want to contact APTA ( since they may have conducted studies in this area for their members. (Posted: May, 2010)

Q. We manufacture fire retardant and sound attenuation materials here at Duracote. I am interested in seeing the specs required for materials that go into the buses. For instance, who writes the specs for what goes into the buses and are those specs available to Duracote?

A. We do not have specifications for buses. We would suggest you contact transit agencies directly and discuss with them how they are developing their bus specifications. You can find access to all transit agencies in the US at the web site. There is a tab on their web page "Find Public Transportation In Your Area." This is a database of all transit agencies organized by state and by large versus small agencies. You will be given phone numbers and Internet addresses for all of them. You can also contact APTA directly to discuss these specific areas of bus specifications. They may be able to offer you advice on the most efficient way to accomplish your goal. (Posted: October, 2010)

Q. Can a Transit Agency use federal funds to replace a bus that was originally bought used (beyond its useful life) without federal funds? Are there any restrictions?

Background = I have a client that would like to use FTA funds to replace a bus that was purchased from another Transit agency (Transit Agency A) because they were growing and they needed the new capacity quickly. The bus was past it's useful life when purchased (not using FTA funds) for a nominal amount. It's unclear however whether the Transit Agency A from which the bus was originally purchased, had already replaced the bus using federal funds. Should we be concerned if this bus was already replaced by Transit Agency A using federal funds about submitting a request from Transit Agency B to use federal funds to replace this bus?

A. Your question should be referred to the FTA Regional Office that has jurisdiction over this grantee.(Posted: January, 2013)

Q. Does the cost of bus procurement include the placement of necessary reflective stripes (safety stripes) as part of the cost of procurement? Background Information: The COH is in the process of purchasing two ADA Accessible 24 passenger buses. The COH procurement office has indicated to our staff that the money designated for the procurement of the buses cannot include the placement of reflective strips as part of the vehicle and would have to be purchase with additional funds other than the funds designated in the grant for the procurement of the buses.

A. You should refer your question to the FTA Regional Office grant manager that oversees your grant.(Posted: December, 2013)

Q. Can a bus manufacturer bid a heavy duty bus as a medium duty bus???Background Information: The Iowa DOT is conducting a mini-van, Light-Duty, and Medium Duty bus RFP on behalf of our public transit systems. We received bids for buses that, based on specs, appear to be Heavy Duty buses. Can we allow these bids in the Medium Duty category?

A. The buses not prohibited from inclusion in a competitive bid situation; however, the bidder will need to be responsive and competitive in terms of both technical specifications as well as price. (Posted: December, 2014)

Q. Does the FTA stipulate that transit buses procured with FTA funds must comply with all federal regulations, in particular, weight regulations?

Background Information: My analysis of the STURAA testing reports from the Altoona Bus Research and Testing Center database (from 2002 to present) has shown me that 60% of the 40-ft two-axle transit buses do not comply with Bridge Formula B when fully-loaded.

A. Section 1023(h) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (23 U.S.C. 127 note; Public Law 102-240) established a single axle weight temporary exemption for "over-the-road" and public transit buses operating on the Interstate, raising the single axle weight threshold from 20,000 lbs. to 24,000 lbs. The exemption was to expire on October 1, 2009, but it was extended by section 1309 SAFETEA-LU (Public Law 109-59), and section 1522 of the recently-enacted MAP-21 (Public Law 112-141) made the exemption permanent. (Posted: December, 2014)

Q. What is the rule of thumb or FTA’s recommendation for the percentage of spare parts to include on a bus procurement?

A. FTA does not have a recommendation for a percentage of spare parts that should be included in a typical bus procurement. You might want to consult with APTA to see if they have any recommendations. (Posted: October, 2015)

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Updated: Friday, March 18, 2016
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