The Bus Testing Program is authorized in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) at a level of $3,000,000 per year in fiscal years 2006 though 2009. These authorized funds cover the costs of operating the program and related facilities, as well as 80% of the test fee for each bus tested. The entity that contracts with the program operator for a bus test – usually the bus manufacturer – pays the remaining 20% of the test fee for that bus.
The Bus Testing Program is operated by The Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute (PTI) , an interdisciplinary research unit of The Pennsylvania State University in the College of Engineering.
A full test includes eight tests performed on the buses: maintainability, reliability, safety, performance including (effective January 1, 2010) braking performance, structural integrity, fuel economy, noise, and (effective January 1, 2010) emissions. These are not pass-or-fail tests; the data from all the tests are compiled into a test report that is made available to the manufacturer to provide information during the procurement process.
FTA has also established policies for partial testing in cases where a previously tested bus is being produced with major changes. If a bus is eligible for partial testing, only those tests in which we would expect to obtain significantly different data would be repeated.
Testing is performed by PTI at two complementary facilities. The check-in procedure, most maintenance and inspections, and most of the static tests are performed at the Altoona Bus Research and Testing Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Dynamic tests, including the structural durability, safety, performance, and fuel economy tests are performed at the Bus Research and Testing (Test Track) Facility in State College, Pennsylvania. As described on the page linked just above, the Test Track features a number of potholes, stutter bumps, asymmetric ramps, and other elements designed to simulate 10 miles worth of typical urban transit bus operation for each mile driven on the track. This “compression” of the Test Track facilitates faster and more economical testing of buses for structural durability. In order to support emissions testing, PTI has built a new bus testing laboratory building at the test track site equipped with a dynamometer and emissions measurement equipment.