Controversial Or A Good Idea – Green Rub Rails On School Buses?

As more and more alternative fueled vehicles hit the road, we still haven’t really seen an industry standard that identifies these vehicles easily for first responders.  Little hybrid, propane, or CNG stickers on the trunk or fender can be hard to see at night and/or destroyed during a crash.  The tale is similar when talking about school buses.  Take for example the propane sticker on the rear bumper in the picture to the right.  Read about Blue Birds new 98 gallon tank for a school bus HERE.

I’ve recently talked with Mr. Ralph Knight (Supervisor of Transportation for the Napa Valley Unified School District in California) about labeling school buses so first responders can easily identify alternative fuels.  When his district ordered several new hybrid school buses, he had the manufacturer paint the rub rails green.  The intent was to provide a means for local first responders to identify these school buses as hybrids and then to take necessary actions if extrication is needed.  Prior to his district’s new buses hitting the road, State of California inspectors sited regulations that mandated the rub rail color to be black in color.  An attempt for an exemption was denied by the California Highway Patrol siting policy of maintaining a clean image of the yellow school bus to ensure emergency responder and public recognition of school buses.


Here’s the question we need feedback on:

Would the green rub rails on the school bus in the picture below help you as a first responder? Why or why not?

Do you foresee any safety issues with green rub rails on alternative fueled school buses?

Below is an example of precautions school bus inspectors take prior to inspecting hybrid school buses in Ohio.  As first responders, we don’t always have someone giving us the details.  We have to figure them out on the fly.  It seems to me that the green rub rails are one way to help first responders do their job at a crash scene faster and safer.

From the Ohio State Patrol School Bus Inspection Manual

Before the inspection starts, ensure that:

  • The inspector needs to be aware of the volts, amps and kilowatts this system contains whether or not it is plugged into a charging unit
  • The driver interface panel switch is in the off position
  • The service disconnect switch in the battery box is in the off position
  • The service disconnect switch in each battery pack is in the off position


    Pass it on!