As discussed in greater detail on the Responsibilities page, recipients of FTA funds must certify to FTA that any new bus model acquired with FTA financial assistance has been tested in accordance with the requirements of Part 665, and that the recipient has received a copy of the applicable Bus Testing Report before expenditure of any FTA funding on a bus.
If the bus configuration being acquired was subject to partial testing, then the recipient must be aware that a Partial Bus Testing Report is intrinsically incomplete. When a recipient acquires a bus model covered by a Partial Bus Testing Report, they must certify that they possess not only the Partial Testing Report, but also the “baseline” full Bus Testing Report for the originally-tested configuration of that model. In some cases, such as when partial testing is conducted because a bus model is offered with a different chassis or other major component but that component has been tested in a similar bus by another manufacturer, the recipient may also need to obtain one or more full and/or partial testing reports of the(se) similar bus(es) that taken together present all the data that would have been included in a full test report of the bus model in question.
A Bus Testing Report for a particular bus model remains valid whether the bus is sold in the same or a lower service life category than that in which it was tested (as shown on the cover of the Bus Testing Report). Conversely, a bus may not be acquired with FTA funds in a higher service life category than that in which it was tested. For example, a bus tested in the 7-year/200,000-mile service life category may be sold in the 4-year, 5-year, or 7-year service life categories, but it may not be sold in the 10-year or 12-year service life categories unless it subsequently completes testing using the test procedures of the higher service life category (generally a partial test consisting of the Structural Durability and Reliability tests using the applicable test procedures would be required). Manufacturers are free to determine the service life category to which their bus will be tested. However, the recipient should be aware that manufacturers may test their bus models in a higher service life category than is appropriate for their vehicle. A high number of failures in the bus test report might be an indication that the bus was not tested in an appropriate service life category.
Obtaining Bus Testing Reports
Bus Testing Reports may be obtained in two ways:
- Download a PDF (Adobe Acrobat) file of the report from the Bus Testing Database at http://www.altoonabustest.com/. Bus Testing Reports may be downloaded for free.
- Order a hard copy from The Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute (PTI), the operator of the Bus Testing Program by contacting:
Altoona Bus Research and Testing Center
2237 Old Route 220 North
Duncansville, PA 16635
(814) 695-3404 voice
(814) 695-4069 fax
PTI charges a nominal fee (currently $12 plus shipping and handling) for each hard copy report.
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. 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.
Unless directed otherwise in writing by the manufacturer of a bus undergoing testing, PTI will complete and make available to the public a new Bus Testing Report within 30 days of the completion of testing.
In accordance with the terms of the Contract for Testing, the manufacturer has the right to withdraw the 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.
The Bus Testing Regulation at 49 CFR Part 665.7(a) states that a recipient of FTA funding must certify that it possesses a copy of the applicable Bus Testing Report(s) before final acceptance of that bus model. FTA interprets final acceptance as the release of FTA funds to the manufacturer.
Report Numbering Convention
As the Bus Testing Program has evolved, the conventions used to designate test reports have evolved slightly as well. However, once the following conventions are understood, then the essential meaning of any report number can be determined.
- A recent test report number will be in this form: PTI-BT-R0689 (this particular report number is fictional). The meaning of each part is as follows:
- “PTI” 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 (PTI conducts a number of other projects besides the Bus Testing Program).
- “R” indicates that the document is a report.
- The first two digits of the number indicate the year that the contract for testing that bus was executed; in this case, the contract for testing this bus was signed in 2006. Buses contracted for testing in 1998 would have a number in the form “98XX.”
- The second two digits of the number indicate the sequence in that year that the contract for testing that bus was executed; in this case, the contract for testing this bus was the 89th contract for testing a bus executed in 2006.
Partial test reports are indicated by the addition of the letter “P” at the end of the report number. For example, if the bus in the above example came back two years later for a partial test, perhaps as the result of a structural or powertrain modification, and the contract for testing this bus was the 74th contract for testing a bus executed in 2008, the resulting report number would be PTI-BT-R0874P.
Maximizing Utility and Benefits of Reports
The Bus Testing Reports objectively document the data obtained during testing. Grantees are strongly encouraged to thoroughly review and understand the Bus Testing Report(s) applicable to a bus model they are considering prior to final acceptance of a bus model. Several grantees have experienced inferior performance and/or expensive, disruptive, embarrassing, and dangerous fleet failures because they did not carefully review the reports on a bus model before final acceptance, which might have given them the opportunity to seek corrective action from the manufacturer.
Bus Testing Reports can be obtained using the web-based Bus Testing Database. Certain raw Bus Testing data can also be exported from the Database for offline analysis and comparison across models.
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 honestly and fairly.
Inappropriate Uses of Bus Testing Reports
It is incorrect and inappropriate to state that a bus “passed” or “failed” FTA (Altoona) Bus Testing. The Altoona Bus Testing Program is not a certification program; none of the tests are performed on a pass/fail basis, and it does not provide a “certification” of a bus model’s quality or fitness for service. However, manufacturers may certify to a recipient that the bus has completed testing.