What are the three black lines on a school bus?

In today’s blog post, we will answer the following question: What are the three black lines on a school bus? We will do our best to explain why school buses in America have the specific yellow colour, and why they must have the famous three stripes on the side. We will discuss other colour options for a Skoolie.

What are the three black lines on a school bus?

The three black lines on a school bus have a function that goes beyond aesthetics. They are there for two very important reasons:

  1. First, they add strength to the side of the bus, so that if there is some kind of impact, the structure is more resistant;
  2. Second, in case of an accident, the three black lines give firefighters an idea of ​​which zone can be breached for rescue. 

If something draws a lot of attention about these yellow school buses, it is that it seems that they all follow an aesthetic pattern that has little changed over the years.

Many internet users wonder for certain reasons about this mythical means of transport. However, on the ClawBoss YouTube channel these doubts have been easily resolved. This is how the driver explains it, since this is because a line marks the aisle of the bus. 

Another marks the bottom of the seats or the trunk, and the top line coincides with the upper area of ​​the same. For this reason, firefighters in an emergency know how to position the structure of the bus.

This youtuber has several videos explaining different parts and functions of the means of transport, revealing data and tricks that more than one can use in some situations.

Why are school buses yellow?

They are diesel, gasoline, propane and even, increasingly, electric. And since 1939, above all, America’s school buses have been yellow. Transportation department officials who were doing a study for Columbia University realized that there were strict federal regulations governing the movement of livestock, hazardous materials, perishable food, and even alcohol … but no law referred to American school buses. 

Nothing and no one controlled the vehicles that families relied on daily for their children’s school transportation.

The peculiar educational system of the United States – which prioritizes schooling as close to home as possible over any other premise – had relegated the matter to a local issue, but at the end of the 1940s, it was already essential to unify security criteria valid for all the country.

Interestingly, although the federal government determined the obligation to paint vehicles in high visibility tones, it did not establish any standard colour. In fact, it still doesn’t exist today. School buses in the United States can legally be painted any colour, or even customized, as long as it is done in industrially approved “high-visibility” shades.

The Yellow Supercoach

In any case, soon the bright yellow that is so familiar to us today (similar to that of New York taxis) became the most popular. So much so that, over time, the School Bus Glossy Yellow Color has ended up being officially recognized as one of the “American national colours”.

The great American baby boom that followed the end of World War II exponentially increased the demand for this type of vehicle and gave rise to countless brands: Carpenter, Gillig, Blue Bird, Crown or International Harvester, among others. 

However, the Crown Supercoach will become the benchmark, and for many motoring mythologians, in America’s most legendary school bus.

The Crown Supercoach

Until the arrival of the Supercoach in 1948, buses could travel between 43 and 45 passengers; In the model manufactured by the Californian Crown, there was room for no more and no less than 79, all seated. 

Aesthetically, it was also innovative due to its rounded shapes (which improved the visibility of passengers). It was entirely made of steel and was equipped with a huge Hall Scott gasoline engine of 12,700cc and 240 hp. All insurance for driving on the steepest mountain roads in Nebraska, Montana or Colorado.

The Supercoach became an absolute success. The schools jumped in to buy it since it allowed them to double the service and also the manufacturer sold it with a 20-year anti-corrosion guarantee for the bodywork. Most of them, by the way, sold out during that period, since the Supercoach remained in production without aesthetic changes – although it did engine – until 1980. The brand, however, was not able to survive the stiff competition and stopped building these vehicles in 1991.

The Blue Bird

Most of America’s large school buses are currently manufactured by Blue Bird, a Fort Valley, Georgia company. It was the first to design in 1927 a bus specifically designed for school transport based on a Ford T.

His Blue Bird All American model also left the factory in 1948 and was the only one capable of standing up to the Supercoach. Its design was inspired by an Opel bus manufactured by the Belgian Van Hool for the German brand, and its success was such that the Blue Bird, faced with the demand of professional drivers, found it necessary to create its own chain of driving schools to train them.

The bluebird remains active after six versions and the logical incorporation of modern safety elements and new propellants.

In some cases, minibuses are even used, which allow small communities to save considerably on this type of vehicle. But the spirit of the old yellow coaches remains. Both in the United States and outside the country. 

Many of the school buses withdrawn from service end up in Central and South American countries; with striking and ornate decorations, they are still tough, cheap and easy to maintain …

Traditionally, American schools keep their school buses in service for a long time, so it is common to see classic models coexisting with more modern ones. Although both the Supercoach and the All American have become, due to their retro forms, the most iconic school buses in the United States, little by little they are being replaced by more conventional buses. 

And electric buses are the new revolution: Blue Bird confirmed that it has put 400 coaches powered by this energy on the roads.

Can you paint over the three black lines on a school bus?

As already mentioned in this article, yes, you can paint over a school bus, especially if you plan on converting it to a motorhome you are allowed to paint over the three black lines! 

  1. Don’t start until you gather all the supplies and materials. What you are going to need depends on the paint you have previously purchased. It is important that you have at your disposal each of the necessary supplies to carry out the painting process. 
  1. You must prepare the bus before applying the paint. One of the things you should do before considering applying the product is removing the paint from the bus. That is the old paint that you want to replace. In this step, you must make sure to remove it completely. 
  1. Don’t forget about sanding. Another important point that you must take into account is to repair all the imperfections before painting. For example, if it presents rust, get rid of it with the help of sandpaper, this step is really simple. Sanding and cleaning the damaged surface of rust is enough because then you will cover and refine this in the painting process.
  1. Time to apply paint. After you have completed all the previous steps you can proceed to apply the product. It is important that you are clear about all the indications that the paint you have purchased brings with it. These generally vary, and the proper result of the job depends on how you use the product. Make sure it is ideal.
  1. To completely paint the bus you will need to apply several coats. This depends on the product you have purchased. What you need to know about this procedure is that each coat must be completely dry before applying the next. Wait the necessary time as indicated by the product you have purchased. 
  1. To improve the final details. When you finish this procedure, that is to say, that you have applied each layer. And wait the time necessary for the bus to be completely dry, you can add shine. This is advice from professionals. 

If you apply an extra coat of clear paint you will give it the result you want. All shine like a brand new bus. Also, another alternative is to use sandpaper, if you make sure that it is really fine so that it does not cause any damage to the paint, you can polish it.

The bottom line

As you have read in this blog post, the history of the three black lines on a school bus and the yellow colour is quite interesting! Of course, if you are converting a school bus to a motorhome, you are allowed to paint it the way you like. 

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions on how to improve this content, please let us know!

FAQ on What are the three black lines on a school bus?

What brand are school buses?

Most of America’s large school buses are currently manufactured by Blue Bird, a Fort Valley, Georgia company.

How many school buses are there in America?

According to a report by the American School Bus Council, there are currently about 480,000 school buses operating in the United States.

Why are school buses yellow?

School buses in America are yellow because it is scientifically a colour with a wide display spectrum both for people with visibility problems and in extreme weather conditions such as fog or snow.

How long does it take to paint a bus?

It can take up to five days to paint a bus. Considering you have to clean, sand, make some repairs, paint one or more coats and retouch it – take it easy and do it properly. 

Can I paint my bus yellow?

Although there is no law to prohibit you to paint your bus yellow, in most states, it is expected to paint your Skoolie a different colour. 


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