Q = Question; A = Answer
A. Altoona testing does not apply to automobiles. There is no prohibition of using Federal funds to purchase autos as long as it is consistent with your grant terms. You can check with your grant manager to be sure. Remember that the Buy America requirements (certification, contract clause, etc.) will apply if the procurement exceeds $100,000.
A. FTA thanks you for your interest in offering an alternative site for bus testing. However, the Program is constrained by statute from conducting testing of new transit bus models at another facility. Federal Acquisition Regulation 49 U.S.C. Sec. 5318(a) states, "The Secretary of Transportation shall establish one facility for testing a new bus model for maintainability, reliability, safety, performance (including braking performance), structural integrity, fuel economy, emissions, and noise."
A. The Dodge Sprinter bus has completed testing at the Altoona Bus Testing Center. It finished quite recently, and the database hasn't yet been updated to show the report, but a copy of the report is attached.
A. The FTA Bus Testing Regulation (49 CFR Part 665) only applies to buses acquired with FTA funding. Therefore, FTA ("Altoona") Bus Testing is not required for vehicles purchased with non-FTA funding, such as the NPS funding you have referenced in your question. (Posted: March 2009).
A. FTA's Bus Testing Regulation (49 CFR Part 665) only applies to buses acquired with FTA funding to provide public transportation service. Airport terminal/rental car shuttles are not considered public transportation and are not funded by FTA. Therefore, the Chinese shuttle bus described would not need to complete "Altoona" testing if it is being acquired for such service without using FTA funds.
There are other requirements that must be met however before a bus can be sold in the U.S. (e.g., compliance with safety and emissions standards). We don't have expertise in such requirements and would refer you to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/) and the Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov/) for assistance with these requirements. It's possible that you may need to contact the Departments of Commerce and/or Customs as well. (Posted: January 2010)
A. The requirement for Altoona testing would depend on the extent (if any) to which the vans are modified from the stock configuration. If these are unmodified Ford E-350 vans, or they have had only limited modifications (e.g., adding a lift or raised roof) performed in strict compliance with Ford's Vehicle Modification Guidelines, then the Bus Testing Regulation (49 CFR Part 665) would consider them to be "unmodified mass-produced vans" and they would be exempt from Bus Testing ("Altoona testing") requirements if offered in the 4-year/100,000-mile service life category. It sounds as if you would buy the vehicles directly from Ford. If that's the case, these vehicles would likely qualify as unmodified mass-produced vans.
From the FTA Bus Testing page:
Unmodified mass-produced van means a van that is mass-produced, complete and fully assembled as provided by an OEM. This shall include vans with raised roofs, and/or wheelchair lifts, or ramps that are installed by the OEM, or by a party other than the OEM provided that the installation of these components is completed in strict conformance with the OEM modification guidelines.
FTA wishes to clarify that this exemption historically assumed that unmodified mass-produced vans would only be offered in the 4-year, 100,000-mile service life category. Unmodified mass-produced vans are categorically exempted from testing by the Bus Testing Regulation only in the 4-year, 100,000-mile service life category; unmodified mass-produced vans offered in the 5-year, 150,000-mile (or higher) service life category are subject to testing.
Feel free to follow up with Gregory Rymarz if you have any additional questions.
Mr. Gregory Rymarz
Bus Testing Program Manager
Federal Transit Administration
Office of Mobility Innovation, TRI-12
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE
East Building, 4th floor
Washington, DC 20590
(Posted: January 2010)
A. The first place to check for Bus Testing Reports is the Bus Testing Database, which is available at http://www.altoonabustest.com/. You may find that the "Compare Buses" option is the easiest way to browse for reports in most cases. If a Bus Testing Report is relatively new, it may not be in the database yet, in which case you can call the Altoona Bus Testing Center staff for assistance at 814-695-3404. (Posted: April 2010)
A. The Bus Testing Regulation and related Federal Register notices exempt UNMODIFIED mass-produced vans from testing (only if they're sold as 4-year/100,000-mile service life category buses). Minor modifications are permitted (e.g., adding lifts or raising a roof) as long as the modifications are performed in strict compliance with the OEM's Vehicle Modification Guidelines.
Wheelchair-accessible minivans typically have dropped floors and revised suspensions. These are major changes from the stock van and therefore Altoona testing is generally required. There are a number of wheelchair-accessible minivans that have "Altoona" Bus Testing Reports available. (Posted: December, 2010)