The Altoona Bus Research and Testing Center in University
Park, Pa., is currently preparing to add brake and emissions testing
capabilities to its already thorough list of safety, structural integrity and
durability, reliability, performance, maintainability, noise and fuel economy
“What we’ll be doing is not an actual certification test,
but a test of chassis-based performance,” explained David Klinikowski,
director, of the Center for Bus Research and Testing at the Thomas D. Larson
Pennsylvania Transportation Institute at Penn State University. “Once you put the engine in
the vehicle and run it in that configuration, you’ll get an idea of the
emissions on a grams-per-mile basis.”
Funding for the already built 10,000-square-foot laboratory
— approximately $2.5 million to set up — will come from funds received under
SAFETEA-LU and is already in place. The Center has also ordered and is
expecting delivery of all necessary equipment by early 2009, however, when the
Center will actually begin testing vehicles is still unknown.
“Start testing depends on when the FTA issues the Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking and what sort of phase and date they determine,” said
Klinikowski. “All of that is undetermined at this point.”
Since the building is already established and funding will
come from the federal government, the costs of creating and maintaining the
Center will not be passed on to the manufacturers that send their vehicles to
be tested. In fact, the cost for emissions and brake testing will follow the
same 80/20 model, where the manufacturer pays 20 percent upfront and the FTA
gets billed for the remaining 80 percent, said Klinikowski.
The new emissions and brake laboratory will be compatible
with EPA 2010 requirements and test for particulates, carbon monoxide,
hydrocarbons and NOx. Protocols for emissions testing are being developed in
tandem with West Virginia University.
Meanwhile, brake testing will be designed to identify any
potential problems with performance and will not be a replacement for the
FMVSS-121-type testing, which means that all vehicles coming in to be tested
must already comply with those standards, said Klinikowski.
The Center, established in 1989 and opened in 1990 with
funding from The Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act,
has tested 320-plus vehicles to date.
Through its various tests, the facility provides objective
test data in a variety of areas that transit agencies can then view in PDF-form
via the Altoona Website (www.altoonabustest.com)
and use during the procurement process. It also enables manufacturers to
simultaneously run their own tests that can be used to improve the performance
of their vehicles. All findings are confidential until testing is complete.
“The requirement is that anybody that receives federal
money, whether it flows directly from the FTA as a grant or through the state,
has to certify that they have a copy of the report before federal funding is
released,” Klinikowski explained. What this means is that vehicle manufacturers
have to test their vehicles if they want to compete in the transit industry
The vehicles tested must be a production model, licensed for
over-the-road travel and manufacturers have to certify that it meets all
federal safety standards.
Klinikowski added that the testing provides positive
benefits for everybody involved, from the manufacturer to the transit agency to
the general public.
“As a result of this program, the cost and reliability of
the buses have both been improved,” he said. “If you can identify potential
fleet failures before they occur, you save major problems, therefore, the
service goes up, reliability goes up, the costs for taxpayers go down and there
are obvious safety benefits.”