The California Department of Education (CDE) currently operates a heavy-duty integral-transit type, 42-foot passenger school bus that is known as the California Utility Bus. The utility school bus is designed on the basis of concepts developed by CDE and merges current vehicle features and technology from the school bus and transit industries to create a multifunctional hybrid passenger transportation vehicle. The bus was developed to meet the needs of the entire passenger transportation industry.
Over the past two decades, the school bus industry in California has seen the number of pupils transported on the traditional yellow school bus drop to an all-time low of 17 percent of school enrollment. With the ever-increasing costs for new or replacement buses and the public's demand to see more funds directed to basic educational needs and the classroom, the continued decline of the use of the traditional yellow school bus--except under particular circumstances--is inevitable. Conversely, over this same time period, the public's needs for traditional mass transit service and additional alternative transportation service has increased significantly. The increase in transportation needs and reduction in capital motivated CDE to develop a vehicle that used current technology and that merged the best features from the mass transit and school bus industries vehicles into one utility vehicle.
This utility vehicle not only meets the current needs of the school bus, activity bus, and mass transit industries but it is designed with enough flexibility to serve future needs that have yet to be determined. Department staff envisioned the utility bus as a vehicle that can be purchased within their fiscal constraints by the passenger transportation industries The utility bus demonstrates that a passenger, operator, maintenance, and environmentally friendly vehicle that is operationally flexible and fiscally practicable can be a reality. More importantly, the utility vehicle operates at the highest level of passenger and public safety that current technology can provide.
The utility school bus serves as a practical demonstration model for the school bus and transit industries of California and the nation. The bus will be used routinely in CDE's Bus Driver Instructor Training Program, which will allow instructors, administrators, and government officials from throughout California, the United States, and several countries to view it. The utility school bus will also be used at state and national driving competitions (also known as roadeos), workshops, and industry conferences.
The CDE is looking into the pupil transportation needs of the next century, and the utility bus exemplifies CDE's vision. The California Department of Education is dedicated to giving future generations a safer and more efficient transportation environment than what is currently enjoyed by pupils today. The utility school bus is the vehicle that will carry Californians in the new millennium.
Department staff had no desire to create a futuristic concept vehicle that was equipped with cutting-edge technology but not readily available or fiscally prudent to the industry. The term "user-friendly" may be overused, but it describes this vehicle accurately. This bus is operator friendly, passenger friendly, maintenance friendly, environmentally friendly, operationally flexible, fiscally responsible, and adaptable to ever-changing operational challenges.