Why Are School Buses Yellow?

Model 1 | January 4, 2017

Why Are School Buses Yellow?

Why Are School Buses Yellow? ( And Other Fun Facts About the Iconic American School Bus)

It seems like the bright yellow school bus has been cruising through American towns forever, but it’s really only been around since 1939. Before the automobile came along, most kids had to walk to school — yes, your grandpa’s stories are mostly true, though a little embellished, no doubt! In more populous areas, kids rode in horse-drawn carriages known as school hacks. But with the advent of the automobile, things began to change. So how did we get from “school hacks” with motors to the modern mode of transportation that today’s kids board every day?

Read on to learn some fun facts about the history of school buses


The First School Buses

began manufacturing horse-drawn “school hacks” or “kid hacks” way back in the late 1800s (possibly in 1886 or a little earlier), and switched to the production of a motorized version in 1914. In the motorized “school hack”, kids sat along the sides facing in towards the aisle. Sometime later, Bluebird Company started manufacturing a vehicle that looked a little more like the buses of today, in a rudimentary way, of course!

Standardizing School Buses

In the 1930s, school buses were in use across the U.S., but although most had a rounded “California top” roof design, they were still for the most part repurposed vehicles and there were no safety standards in place. Due to the concerns about safety voiced by many parents, interest in standardizing the school bus prompted action, and in 1939, Dr. Frank Cyr organized a conference at the University of Manhattan to start a conversation. Transportation officials from all 48 states attended, and together, they developed 44 national standards for school buses. One of those, as you might have guessed, was the idea of making all school buses yellow, or more precisely, “national school bus glossy yellow”.

Why They Chose Yellow

The conference attendees settled on a bright because of its ability to grab attention on the road. Studies have shown that we notice yellow before we notice any other color — 1.24 times faster than another attention-getting color— even? red, for example! Yellow is also easily spotted in early morning light, a time when most school buses are ferrying kids to school. And because yellow is also so easy to spot in all kinds of light and weather, it’s also frequently the color of choice for bulldozers and other heavy equipment. In the case of school buses, though, the color change was voluntary, and it wasn’t until 1974 that school buses in the U.S. were all painted yellow.

Interestingly, the original color of yellow proposed and widely used after the 1939 conference was pure, bright yellow. That evolved into the yellow-orange or mango color we know today.


Whether you’re looking for a fleet of school buses, a used party bus, or anything in between, contact us at Creative Bus Sales, the nation’s largest bus dealer since 1980!