BLOG: Have you ever wondered why school buses are that certain shade of yellow? And why they’re all the same size and shape? I did, and so I did a little research.
In 1939, the Rockefeller Foundation funded a study by a Columbia University professor named Frank Cyr who was trying to establish a national standard for school buses. There were two good reasons for this: first, the safety of the schoolchildren, and second, cost – mass production would keep prices lower. Dr. Cyr held a conference, bringing together engineers and various specialists from companies like the Ford Motor Company and DuPont, and this brainy group came up with no fewer than 44 school bus standards. They determined the best height and weight specifications, and then moved on to the vehicles’ color. Imagine every shade of yellow, from the palest lemon to a dark orange-red, and then imagine trying to pick just one! After much deliberation, the field was narrowed to just three shades, and then finally to the color we are now all so familiar with. What is this color called? Well, “National School Bus Glossy Yellow”, of course! It was chosen because it is the easiest to see during the early morning and evening hours when school buses typically operate. The bold black lettering was then added with the hope that it would make the buses even more eye-catching, thus keeping their precious cargo even safer.
At first, only about 35 states adopted these standards, but now it truly is a national standard. Even Minnesota, which held out the longest with their “Minnesota Golden Orange” eventually made the change, and the color was registered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a Federal Standard No. 595a, Color 13432.
So now you know!