This Is What Those Black Stripes On School Buses Actually Mean

This Is What Those Black Stripes On School Buses Actually Mean

The world is full of messages hidden in plain sight, if you just know how to read them. Knowing this makes the mundane so much more interesting, and it’s hard to think of anything more mundane than those black rails on the side of school buses. Those black rails — known to the savvy schoolbusheads as “rub rails” — are actually placed at very specific locations on the bus, and have important meanings, and it’s high time you were let in on the secret.

Thanks to this very informative video posted by school bus driver/enthusiast ClawBoss, the Secret of the Rails has been spreading throughout the Greater Internet like crazy, and I want in on it, too.

So, here, watch the video:

Holy crap, how about that! The three rails are there to demarcate the body mid-section/top of the seat, the seat line itself where all the kids’ butts are installed, and the floor line of the passenger compartment.

The rails add some strength to the thin sheet metal sides of the bus, and provide a good visual aid for rescue and safety workers in case a bus is involved in an accident; a quick glance at these rails can show if the impact happened below the floor line, for example, which would be less serious.

All states have different regulations, so, for the hell of it, I checked out the regs for where I live, in North Carolina, a state that also once allowed teenaged barely-drivers to haul children to-and-from school.

It seems in NC the rails don’t need to be painted black, but otherwise, yeah, it all checks out:

This Is What Those Black Stripes On School Buses Actually Mean
Screenshot: NCDOT

NC requires three guard rails, and describes them in what sounds strangely like biblical wording:

In addition to the side stringer or rub rail required in the above wheel housing section, there shall be applied to the outside of the body, three guard rails. These members to be corrugated so as to provide maximum stiffness and shall be 16-gauge or heavier. Pressed-in guardrails will not meet these requirements. Guardrails shall be located at the following approximate locations: floor level, seat level, and windowsill level.

I think it’s the repeated use of “shall” that makes me want to end this with an “amen.”

Now you’re in the know! No more will a school bus drive by without you having an immediate visual reminder of where all those kids’ shoulders, butts, and feet are!

Plus, it’s good reminder about how much underfloor room there is on a school bus for batteries.

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