School Bus Fleet

September 2014

A management & maintenance magazine for school transportation fleets

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the last word 68 S C H O O L B U S F L E E T • S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 4 SCHOOL BUS FLEET (ISSN 0036-6501) (USPS 483-800) is published monthly, except for May and November by Bobit Business Media, 3520 Challenger Street, Torrance, California 90503-1640. Periodicals postage paid at Torrance, California 90503-1640 and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to School Bus Fleet, P.O. Box 1068 Skokie, IL 60076-8068. Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for address changes to take effect. Subscription Prices - United States $25 per year; Canada $30 per year; Foreign $75 per year. Single copy price - $4; Fact Book - $25. Please allow 6 to 8 weeks to receive your first issue. Bobit Business Media reserves the right to refuse non-qualified subscriptions. Please address Editorial and Advertising correspondence to the Executive Offices at 3520 Challenger Street, Torrance, California 90503-1640. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced either in whole or in part without consent of Bobit Business Media. All statements made, although based on information believed to be reliable and accurate, cannot be guaranteed and no fault or liability can be accepted for error or omission. For your Information: We sometimes make our subscriber information (i.e. fax, e-mail or mailing address) available to carefully screened organizations whose products and services may be of interest to you. If you prefer not to have your information made available, please write School Bus Fleet, P.O. Box 1068 Skokie, IL 60076-8068. C ongress knows how to keep us on the edge of our seats. That was the case in last year's federal government shutdown. It was also the case this summer, when it was up to Con- gress to keep the U.S. Highway Trust Fund from going bankrupt. On July 31, Congress passed a bill to keep the highway fund sol- vent until May 31 of next year. If not for that last-minute action, funding for high- way construction projects would have slowed and then stopped in about a month. While an infrastructure fasco has been averted for now, legislators really only "kicked the can down the road" until next spring. Then, Congress will again have to decide whether to fgure out a long-term funding plan or resort to another short-term patch for the Highway Trust Fund. Perhaps the most prominent — and con- tentious — proposal to help adequately fnance the highway fund is to raise the federal fuel tax. And that's where it gets in- teresting for the school bus industry. The Highway Trust Fund, established in 1956, fnances construction of the nation's highways, bridges and railways, and it sup- ports mass transit. It does this primarily through the federal fuel tax, which since 1993 has stayed at 18.3 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel. School bus operations have been exempt from the federal fuel tax since 1978. Keep- ing it that way is a key concern for many in the industry. The National School Transportation As- sociation (NSTA) has long been lobbying to protect the fuel tax exemption for school buses. Becky Weber of Prime Policy Group, which works with NSTA, says that this was one of the top issues that NSTA members discussed with con- gressional representatives dur- ing their visit to Capitol Hill this spring. Mike Martin of the National Association for Pupil Transporta- tion says that "if someone's costs go up, particularly as a result of increased taxes, their prices are likely to go up, too. That's a practical reason school districts and their contract service providers should work together to protect the fuel tax exemption." Charlie Hood of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services notes that "removing the exemp- tion would eventually increase the cost of student transportation in those states that use contracted student transportation for some or all of their services." While the school bus exemption has been preserved for well over three decades, the dire situation of the Highway Trust Fund could pose a threat. Fuel tax revenue for the fund has declined in recent years as cars have become more fuel-effcient and the number of miles driven has decreased. For Congress, increasing the fuel tax would be a politically dangerous move. But even if lawmakers don't increase the fuel tax, they could still take away the fuel tax exemption for school transportation, which would not go far in shoring up the High- way Trust Fund but would be detrimental to the school bus industry. Weber of Prime Policy Group adds: "The industry must be vigilant to ensure Con- gress is educated that the rationale for the federal fuel tax exemption for school bus transportation remains as valid today as it did when it was instituted." By Frank Di Giacomo, VP, Bus and Rail/Publisher sbf@bobit.com Fuel tax exemption must be protected School bus operations have been exempt from the federal fuel tax since 1978. Keeping it that way is a key concern for many in the industry.

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