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Bus Testing Reports

The contents of this page do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This page is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies. Recipients and subrecipients should refer to FTA’s statutes and regulations for applicable bus testing requirements.
A collage of the covers of past bus testing reports.

 

The Bus Testing Regulation states at 49 CFR § 665.7(a) that a recipient of FTA funding must receive a copy of the appropriate full Bus Testing Report and any applicable Partial Testing Report(s) before final acceptance of the first unit of that bus model. FTA interprets final acceptance as the release of FTA funds to the bus manufacturer.

Tests performed in a higher service life category (i.e., longer service life) need not be repeated when the same bus model is used in lesser service life applications. Manufacturers are free to determine the service life category their bus will be tested under. Recipients should be aware that manufacturers may test their bus models in a higher service life category than is appropriate for their vehicle.

A manufacturer has the right to withdraw its bus from testing at any time. In the event a bus is withdrawn from testing by the manufacturer, a test report will not be issued and none of the data collected will be publicly released.

Obtaining Bus Testing Reports

Bus Testing Reports may be downloaded in PDF format for free from the Bus Testing Database. The database only shows the numeric portion of the test report number, including the partial test indicator, if applicable, and the bus make and model names.

Most computers and devices have a PDF reader installed; if not, you can download the free Acrobat Reader.

Bus Testing Report Numbering

As the Bus Testing Program has evolved, the conventions used to designate test reports have evolved as well. However, once the following conventions are understood, then the meaning of any report number can be determined.  

From 1990 until 2019, Bus Testing Reports were numbered either PTI-BT-RYY## or LTI-BT-RYY##.  For example, consider a fictional test report number LTI-BT-R1589. The meaning of each part is as follows:

  • “LTI” (or “PTI” on older reports) indicates that the report is produced by The Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, the operator of the Bus Testing Program.
  • “BT” indicates that the report is an FTA Bus Testing Report (LTI conducts other projects besides the Bus Testing Program).
  • “R” indicates that the document is a report.
  • “YY” are the first two digits of the report number and indicate the year that the contract for testing that bus was executed. In the example above, the contract for testing this bus was signed in 2015.  Similarly, buses contracted for testing in 1998 have a number in the form “98##.”
    • Reports on buses contracted for testing in the year 2000 are an exception; these are designated “20##” rather than “00##.”    
  • “##” are the second two digits of the number and indicate the sequence in that year that the contract for testing that bus was executed.  In the example above, this bus was the 89th contract for testing a bus executed in 2015.

The report number format changed starting with buses contracted for testing in 2020.  The new format going forward is LTI-BT-RYYYY-##.  Note that all four digits of the year are now shown, and the sequence number is separate.  

In both numbering systems, Partial Testing Reports are indicated by the addition of “-P” at the end of the report number.  For example, if a variation of the bus in the above example was submitted a year later for a partial test and the contract for testing this bus was the 74th contract for testing a bus executed in 2016, the resulting report number would be LTI-BT-R1674-P.  If a second variation of that baseline model bus was the 57th bus submitted for partial testing in 2021, the resulting report number would be LTI-BT-R2021-57-P.

Bus Testing Reports Before and After “Pass/Fail”

The current “pass/fail” version of the Bus Testing Regulation became effective on October 31, 2016:

  • Bus models that started full or partial testing prior to October 31, 2016 are not subject to the Pass/Fail requirement.  Bus Testing Reports for buses that initiated testing prior to that date remain valid and will not be revised to add a score or Pass/Fail rating.
  • Bus models that started testing after October 31, 2016 are subject to Pass/Fail and will receive a score that makes it easier to compare that bus model to similar bus models.  Bus models tested under Pass/Fail that fail to meet one or more minimum performance standards will not receive a “passing” Bus Testing Report, and will be ineligible for FTA financial assistance.    
  • Partial tests that are performed after October 31, 2016 but are based on a baseline full report on a bus model that started testing prior to October 31, 2016 will be published without a score.  However, if that bus model does not pass all of the individual test procedures applicable to that partial test, it will not receive a passing partial testing report, and that configuration of the bus model will not be eligible for FTA grant funding.
  • The start of testing is considered to be the date that the contract for testing is executed.
  • Conveniently, all old-format Bus Testing Report numbers starting with “16” or earlier (this includes old-format report numbers starting with “20”) were tested and reported under the procedures that applied prior to pre-pass/fail, and all reports starting with a “17” and later were performed under pass/fail testing and reporting procedures.  All new-format (2020 and forward) Bus Testing Reports are pass/fail.
  • Every Bus Testing Report posted on the Bus Testing Database remains valid for the bus make, model, and configuration described by that report.

Tips for Using and Understanding Bus Testing Reports

Bus Testing Reports follow a standardized format.  Every report will include an Executive Summary, detailed vehicle specifications, and a section corresponding to each test performed on that bus.  In the case of a bus that completed full testing, all sections will be included in the report, except that zero-emission buses will not include the Emissions section (for zero-emission buses, the Fuel Economy section of the report will provide data on energy efficiency and driving range).  In the case of a bus that completed partial testing, only those sections corresponding to the tests actually performed will be included in the report, and the remaining information should be obtained from the full report on the baseline bus model.

The Bus Testing Reports objectively document the data obtained during testing.  Grantees are strongly encouraged to thoroughly review and understand the entire Bus Testing Report(s) applicable to a bus model they are considering prior to final acceptance of a bus model.  Procurement risks can be minimized further by reviewing the report(s) for both a bus model of interest and comparable bus models prior to model selection.  Several grantees have experienced inferior performance and/or expensive, disruptive, embarrassing, and dangerous fleet failures because they did not carefully review the report(s) on a bus model before model selection, or at least before final acceptance, which might have given them the opportunity to seek corrective action from the manufacturer.

A few examples of issues to consider (and the location of the information in the Bus Testing Report or Database, in addition to the Executive Summary) when reviewing and comparing Bus Testing Reports – especially a report issued prior to Pass/Fail – are:

  • Is this the correct Bus Testing Report for the bus model in question (Bus Testing Database, combined with the reviewer’s judgment)?  Some manufacturers sell significantly different buses under closely-related model names.  Some manufacturers also sell similar bus models under different model names or even different “manufacturer” names.
  • Is the bus configuration being considered substantially similar to (or at least a less-stressed [e.g., smaller and/or lighter] case of) the bus configuration that was tested (Test Bus Check-In)?
  • Could the bus be loaded to its designated capacity without exceeding any of its axle weight ratings or its gross vehicle weight rating (Vehicle Data Form)?
  • Did the bus have any serious Class 1 (safety hazard) or Class 2 (road call) failures (Reliability)?  If so, was the root cause satisfactorily resolved (Structural Durability discussion and Unscheduled Maintenance table)?
  • Did the bus have a relatively high number of Class 3 and Class 4 failures that would indicate the potential for increased maintenance costs and/or reduced availability (Reliability)?
  • Were there any failure modes that occurred multiple times (Structural Durability – Unscheduled Maintenance table)?
  • How many hours of unscheduled maintenance were needed to get the bus through testing (Executive Summary for buses tested under Pass/Fail; Structural Durability – Unscheduled Maintenance table for all buses)?
  • Does the bus have enough performance to keep up with traffic and climb the grades on the intended routes (Performance)?  Consider that the Performance test, which includes acceleration and gradeability tests, is conducted at seated load weight.  The performance of the bus may be significantly reduced at gross vehicle weight. 
  • Does the driving range of a zero-emission vehicle meet the required duty cycle and route distance (Fuel Economy (Energy Efficiency and Range))?
  • Was the tested vehicle equipped with the desired ADA accessibility equipment such as wheelchair lifts or ramps (Check-In)?

Bus Manufacturers are free to utilize data from Bus Testing Reports in their marketing to highlight the performance of their buses relative to other models.  Recipients of FTA funds should exercise the usual buyers’ caution to satisfy themselves that manufacturers that use Bus Testing Data in their marketing have done so accurately and without cherry-picking.

 

Last updated: Tuesday, June 1, 2021