NASHVILLE — A measure that is expected to save local school districts more than $50 million by extending the life of school buses has been approved by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Senate Bill 1966, co-sponsored by state Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, in the Senate and sponsored by Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, in the House of Representatives, was approved last week. The bill allows buses to be used until they reach their 18th year of service, with leeway for the Commissioner of Safety to approve additional years of service beyond 18 years for buses with fewer than 200,000 miles.

“This will give our school districts much more flexibility to keep school buses running longer which are mechanically sound,” Yager said. “The bill puts into place additional inspections to ensure that they are in good operating order before the life of the bus can be extended. These diesel engines, if kept in good working order, can last longer than the present law allows.”

Currently, school buses in Tennessee must be retired when they have been in operation for 15 years or when they reach 200,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Yager’s legislation requires buses 16 to 18 years old to be inspected twice annually. Once a bus reaches the 200,000 mile mark, it can be kept in service until the end of the current academic year.

The bill funds four additional positions within the Department of Safety, with two more positions to be added next year, for bus inspections.

“Student safety continues to be our first priority,” Yager said. “We believe that this bill will save our school districts money without compromising safety.”

The Scott County Board of Education went on record in December in favor of increasing the road life of school buses deemed safe by inspectors.