transportation building

Governing Law

The Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act (STURAA - see below) of 1987, Section 317: Bus Testing, establishes a requirement for new model buses to be tested prior to purchase with federal funds. It also established the Bus Testing Center and defined the tests to be performed on the new model buses. 

In 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA - see below) amended Section 317 of STURAA in two significant ways: it requires additional tests be performed for emissions and brake performance, and it specifically adds alternative fuel buses to those required to be tested. ISTEA also authorizes the FTA to pay 80 percent of the costs of bus testing. 

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, TEA-21, is the name given to the Federal legislation (Public Law 105-178) that is the successor legislation to the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act and was signed into law on June 9, 1998, changing the contract between Penn State and the Federal Transit Administration to a cooperative agreement and continuing funding until 2004.

In August 2005, President Bush signed into law the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). This law modified the Bus Testing Regulation (49 CFR Part 665) to incorporate tests for brake performance and emissions and continues to provide funding for the program.

STURAA - The Bus Testing Law

The Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987, Section 317: Bus Testing, amends Section 12 (General Provisions) of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Act of 1964 as follows: After September 30, 1989, no new bus model may be acquired under the Act unless a bus of such model has been tested at a bus testing facility. The Act specifies that the bus testing facility shall be established by renovation of an existing facility (in Altoona, Pennsylvania). The Act defines the term new bus model to mean a bus model not previously used (prior to October 1988) in mass transportation service in the United States or one produced with a major change in configuration or components. The bus testing facility shall be capable of testing a bus for maintainability, reliability, safety, performance, structural integrity, fuel economy, and noise. The bus testing facility shall be operated under a contract with FTA by a qualified organization that shall collect fees for testing. 


The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), signed into law by President Bush in December 1991, requires adaptation of the existing facilities and procedures to accommodate testing of alternative fueled buses and to add brake performance and emissions testing. The facilities will accommodate the testing and repair of vehicles using the following fuels: gasoline, diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), methanol/ethanol, propane, and battery-powered electric. Modifications will provide for the storage and dispensing of the above fuels as well as the installation of all required safety equipment. New test procedures and equipment will allow the testing required for alternative-fueled vehicles. Specifically, new fuel economy test rigs will withstand the corrosive effects of methanol and ethanol; additional systems will measure the consumption of LNG, CNG, and electrical power. Procedures will also address safety considerations for handling, dispensing, and testing with alternative fuels. The ISTEA amended Section 317 of STURAA to authorize the FTA to pay 80 percent of the costs of bus testing.


On August 1, 2016, the FTA announced a final rule for bus testing for improving the process of ensuring the safety and reliability of new transit buses. The rule satisfies requirements in MAP-21 to establish minimum performance standards, a standardized scoring system, and a pass-fail threshold that will better inform local transit agencies as they evaluate and purchase buses.

Bus models that fail to meet one or more minimum performance standards will "fail" their test and thus be ineligible for purchase with FTA funds until the failures are resolved. FTA will use this authority to make sure defects are fixed before vehicles are allowed to go into service.

The rule also will generate data from the scoring system that makes it easier to compare similar bus models from different manufacturers. Test results for a particular bus model are compiled in a report; an FTA grantee must certify that it has received a copy of the test report prior to final acceptance of the first vehicle. 

The Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, signed on December 4, 2015, provided $3 million per year in additional funding for the operation of the program through September 30, 2020.



Established in 1989 by the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute with funding provided by the Federal Transit Administration, the Larson Transportation Institute’s Bus Research and Testing Center tests buses for safety, structural integrity, durability, performance, maintainability, noise, emissions, energy economy, and fuel economy. Based primarily in Altoona, Pennsylvania, the Center also has a facility located at the Larson Transportation Institute Test Track in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.  

Bus Research and Testing Center

2237 Plank Road

Duncansville, PA 16635

Phone: 814-695-3404

Fax: 814-695-4069