What are school bus bodies made of? (and how are they made)

In this short guide, we will answer the following question: What are school bus bodies made of? We will explain what school buses, also known as Skoolies, are made of and how they are built. We will also discuss how safe Skoolies are in a crash. 

What are school bus bodies made of?

School bus bodies are mainly made of steel, meaning a mixture of iron and carbon. Steel is also used to make the chassis and other components of a school bus. The body of the bus is where the passengers and the driver are located, so manufacturers consider comfort and utility as part of its characteristics.

 The body of the Skoolie can be manufactured from the following materials:

  • Steel: it is strong and also easy to weld, relatively cheap and has many other properties useful for the construction of bodies. One can recycle steel and its main component is iron. To make beams and other components of their support, the steel can be pressed into different profiles offering maximum structural strength.
  • Aluminium: it is lighter, but instead it has the strength of steel and is more difficult to weld. Aluminium production is energy-intensive, but this material can be easily recycled. Very few cars are made of aluminium. However, some may have the hood, doors and other components of the chassis made of aluminium.
  • Stainless steel: buses can be made of stainless steel, but the process is complicated and expensive. Stainless steel is difficult to press and weld.
  • Plastic – In some buses, the dash panels of the outer body are made of plastic, mounted on a steel structure. In these cases, fibreglass-reinforced polyester is used. Plastic can be used in some buses with steel bodies, for example for the hood. 

Most buses have parts of plastic exteriors (bumpers, protective mouldings, exterior side mirror cover, mud flaps, etc.). Protective fins are also installed in plastic interiors in a growing number of automobiles. It is recommended that all parts used by the automotive industry are identified to facilitate its recycling. Recycled plastic is already used to make buses

Is aluminium a good material for buses?

Aluminium is a good material for buses as it is resistant to corrosion by water and de-icing salt, making it a material of choice in the transportation industry. Aluminium components and structures resist corrosion as long as they are designed and manufactured correctly with the correct alloys. 

Aluminium is therefore presented as a material of choice in the transport sector. 

Aluminium is very reactive and oxidizes easily and quickly in the air; it is then coated with a thin transparent protective layer of aluminium oxide, which prevents any intrusion of oxygen and other gases or liquids. This layer is very strongly attached to the surface of the aluminium: it does not chip away to expose surfaces vulnerable to oxidation. And if this layer is damaged, it spontaneously reforms itself, which provides continued protection.

Some forms of corrosion can occur on aluminium vehicle components if general guidelines are not followed. For example, so-called galvanic corrosion can occur on contact between two dissimilar metals in the presence of an electrolyte, such as water. 

A common manifestation of this phenomenon is caused by the installation of steel fasteners on an aluminium part. The main preventive measure is to interpose another material to isolate the steel from the aluminium, thus eliminating direct contact between them. 

How are school buses made?

Bus manufacturers work to order, just in time. They have no stocks of vehicles, except demonstration vehicles or vehicles from canceled orders.

Once the specifications of the vehicle have been validated and the order confirmed, the manufacturer starts the purchase of the parts necessary for the manufacture of the bus from its suppliers. These parts will enter the assembly line at the right time.

The manufacturing processes vary according to the manufacturers, but overall the sequence is the same.

  • The chassis. It all starts with the construction of the chassis (welded tubes and sheet steel), on which are grafted the powertrain (engine, gearbox and auxiliaries), the front axle, the rear axle, the air bottles, and finally the fuel tanks for diesel vehicles. The chassis then enters the assembly line.
  • The body. The structure of the bus is protected from corrosion by cataphoretic tempering. The structure is dressed: gluing the windows, fitting the body panels, etc. 
  • Assembling the bus. Next, the floor is laid. The doors are then installed. The bumpers are attached, as well as the light units, mirrors and advertising frames.
  • Interior design. It remains to arrange the interior of the bus: wiring (dashboard, doors, lighting, sound system, stop request, etc.), laying of the groundsheet, equipment of the driver’s station, installation of the heating (in plinth or by air heaters ) and possibly air conditioning, fixing the segments and interior panels, then fitting columns and seats.
  • Safety equipment is added: fire extinguisher and icebreaker hammers. Finally, if the customer has requested it, the livery is installed.
  • Once completed, the bus is ready for delivery to the customer. The delivery times for a new bus vary between 4 and 8 months after the validation of the order.

There are two solutions: either the customer comes to collect the bus directly from the factory, or the latter is conveyed by road. The transport of the vehicle to its final destination can be done by its own means (circulation with a W registration) or by transport on a tank truck. Service providers may be responsible for the conveyance.

Once the bus has been received, it cannot be put online directly. There are still administrative procedures and technical installations to be carried out.

  • Vehicle equipment. If the network has not chosen factory installation, it remains to install the on-board equipment: weather vanes, radio, passenger information, driver’s desk, validators, video, etc. And to prepare the vehicle for integration into the network: exterior decoration, installation of park numbers …

Once these installations and procedures are completed, the bus is ready to run online. The operations department can integrate it into the planning. Barring an accident, the bus will run on the network for 10 to 20 years. Every 6 months it will have to pass a technical check.

How safe are school buses?

Compared to other RVs and vehicles, yes, Skoolies are safe on the road. The school bus is a heavy vehicle with superior construction. Its robust construction, it’s simple and accessible mechanics make it a very reliable vehicle. An abundance of used parts, at affordable prices, is available to bus owners. 

Designed to transport children, as safety is paramount, the bus in service requires one inspection per year by an accredited company. The driver must maintain his vehicle rigorously and keep his logbook up to date, which is subject to checks by road inspectors. When it is removed from the school circuit, the annual inspection is still essential to keep the bus on the road.

Of course, for your peace of mind, we recommend ensuring your Skoolie. Insuring a bus is easy for a business. On the other hand, for an individual, it gets tough. Since very few people buy heavy vehicles for personal use, insurers are not used to this kind of file. 

The school bus is too big to be considered a normal vehicle, which is why most insurance companies will consistently refuse to insure you. It is not impossible to ensure, but we must turn to companies with access to a wider range of products.

Final words

As you read in this article, school buses are made of a mix of steel, aluminium, plastic and carbon. All materials are carefully selected depending on their final destination. No matter the type of elements used, you have to know that Skoolies are actually safer than many RVs. 

Do you have any questions or comments on the content? Do let us know!

FAQ on What are school bus bodies made of?

How is a bus made?

The buses have two basic structures: A chassis – particularly made of an aluminium alloy, with beams and cross members that cross them and with an outer frame, destined to receive floor plates that run in a longitudinal direction. And a body – made of aluminium, steel or plastic.

What is the chassis of a school bus made of?

The chassis of a school bus is made on the basis of an aluminum alloy, with stringers and crossbars that cross these and with an outer frame, intended to receive floor plates running in the longitudinal direction.

How is a bus measured?

The weight of passenger trucks and buses is measured by a measuring instrument known as a scale. In many places, it is used to control the weight of vehicles such as passenger trucks and buses in order to ensure safety on the journey

Are buses made of aluminium?

Yes, most buses are made of different aluminium alloys, which allows them to be more durable and less prone to corrosion.

Are school buses safe?

Compared to other RVs and vehicles, yes, Skoolies are safe on the road. The school bus is a heavy vehicle with superior construction. Its robust construction, it’s simple and accessible mechanics make it a very reliable vehicle. An abundance of used parts, at affordable prices, is available to bus owners. 

Other FAQs about Skoolie that you may be interested in.

Do I need to sand my bus before painting?

Can you finance a Skoolie?

Are Skoolies expensive to maintain?


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