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PUPIL TRANSPORTATION IN MAINE

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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FEDERAL REGULATIONS :

  1. What is a school bus?
  2. What is a school-related event?
  3. Why are school buses not equipped with seatbelts?
  4. How can I tell if a bus meets National Transportation Safety Administration's (NHTSA) bus safety standards?
  5. Does Federal law require school buses to be yellow?
  6. What are non-conforming vehicles?
  7. To whom do the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) apply?
  8. Do the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) pertain to the purchaser as well as the seller?
  9. What are bus drivers allowed to know about student records?
  10. Do the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) apply to school buses?

STATE REGULATIONS :

A .    Where can I find Maine School Bus Rules and Specifications?

B .    What is the State policy regarding the maximum walking distance a child must walk to a bus stop?

C .    How long may a student ride on a bus to or from school?

D.    Where can I find the necessary requirements to become a bus driver?

E.    Does the State require first aid or CPR training for all school bus drivers?

F.     What is the rule concerning a bus driver leaving a bus with children on board?

G .   What is the State policy regarding placing additional stickers or lights on the bus to fully warn drivers not to pass a stopped bus?

H.    Are vans legal for student transportation vehicles?

I.    What are the rules pertaining to the use of public school buses for private use?

J.     Is audio taping in conjunction with video taping on school buses legal?

K.    How does Maine fund pupil transportation?

L.    Are schools, as tax-exempt agencies of the government, subject to the State of Maine environmental tax?

M.    What are the State requirements for drug and alcohol testing of school bus drivers?


SPECIAL NEEDS & HEAD START GUIDELINES AND REGULATIONS

i.     Is the school system required to transport, or pay for parents to transport, special education students to any program listed as necessary on their Individual Education Plan (IEP)?

ii.     What are the requirements for transporting head start students?

iii.    What are the transportation requirements for pre-school programs?

iv.    Should transportation personnel be involved in developing the Individual Education Plan (IEP) for special education students?



 

 

1.   Answer :   The definition the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides for a bus is "a motor vehicle designed to carry more than ten persons, and a 'school bus' as a bus that is sold or introduced into interstate commerce for purposes that include carrying students to and from school or school-related events."  

Maine law defines a school bus as a "motor vehicle with a carrying capacity of 10 or more passengers used to transport children as approved by school authorities to and from school, school activities, municipally operated activities, or activities of a nonprofit corporation or association.   It does not include a private motor vehicle used to transport members of the owner's household, or a private school activity bus."

 

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2.   Answer :    A school-related event is any activity supported by a school (i.e. sports events, band concerts, field trips, etc.).

 

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3.   Answer :   The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) with the cooperation of the National Academy of Science (NAS) have concluded that a Federal requirement for seatbelts on school buses would provide little , if any , additional protection in a crash.   As it is now, school buses are the safest mode of transportation ; every year, 394,000 buses travel approximately 4.3 billion miles to transport 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities.   For example, in 1995, twelve passengers were killed while riding on school buses; compare that to 8,168 children (between the ages of five and twenty) killed in that same year while riding in other motor vehicles, and it is obvious that school buses are much safer.   For more information pertaining to this subject, peruse the following web site:  

                http://www.nhtsa.gov/Vehicle+Safety/Seat+Belts/Seat+Belts+on+School+Buses+--+May+2006.

 

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4.   Answer :   Located on the door near the driver's seat is a certification label.   If the bus does, indeed, meet NHTSA's school bus standards, the sticker states: "This vehicle conforms to all applicable US Federal motor vehicle safety standards in effect on the date of manufacture shown above," and it will state "school bus" ( not  " bus ") as the the vehicle classification.  

 

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5.   Answer :   No.   State and local governments establish policy for school bus color; however, the NHTSA provides suggestions to the States.   Federal Highway Safety Program Guideline No. 17 advocates that school buses be painted yellow.   Although Federal law does not require school buses to be painted yellow, the State of Maine regulations stipulate that all school buses be painted National School Bus Yellow.

 

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6.   Answer : Any motor vehicle is considered a non-conforming vehicle when it is not designed and assembled to meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for a school bus.   A vehicle that has been manufactured with the capacity to transport eleven or more people-including the driver- must follow these standards under Federal law.   State law necessitates that vehicles with a capacity of ten or more passengers that are used to transport school children meet these conditions.

 

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7.  Answer :   The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) authority pertains to any person selling or offering a new vehicle for sale or lease .   It is a violation of Federal law for a person to deliberately sell or lease a new vehicle for use as a school bus if it does not meet all school bus FMVSS.

 

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8.   Answer :   No. The NHTSA's laws control the manufacture and sale of motor vehicles, but not the utilization of the vehicles; however, state regulations require that all school buses in use meet all relevant FMVSSs on the date of manufacture of the bus.

 

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9.   Answer :   The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) imposes significant obligations on local school units in regard to how they treat student education records.   The state of Maine has fully incorporated the requirements of FERPA into its own laws dealing with student records (see 20-A M.R.S.A. 6001).   These laws limit, in a comprehensive manner, the person who may access student records without parental consent; specifically, school officials who have a legitimate educational interest in a specific student may have access to student records without the parents' permission.

Under these laws, a school bus driver is defined as a school official, and if that driver operates the school bus in which that specific student rides, it is recognized that the school bus driver has a legitimate educational interest in those parts of a student's record relating to transportation.  The "legitimate educational interest" is applicable whenever a school official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility, for example, a school bus driver needs to be informed if a student on the bus is likely to have a seizure or is allergic to bee stings in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility to that student.  Likewise, if a student has a cognitive disability, such as autism or ADD, and the disability is likely to manifest itself on the school bus ride, the driver needs to be familiar with appropriate responses to this behavior in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities to all the students on the bus.

 

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10.   Answer :   It depends.   The FMCSRs specifically exempt school bus operations and transportation performed by government entities from some sections of the regulations.   School bus operation and transportation provided by non-government agencies are subject to the FMCSR (see 49 CFR, part 390.3).   In other words, anyone operating school buses under contract with a school is a for-hire motor carrier and subject to 49 CFR; likewise, private schools operating school buses are subject to the FMCSR.  

Maine law requires that all school bus operators -- government and non-government -- comply with 49 CFR, Part 383, Substance and Alcohol Use Testing; also, state regulations utilize 49 CFR, Part 390, Sub-Part E, as a guideline for school bus driver physical requirements.

Revisions to 49 CFR, Part 390, which would modify or remove the exemption for government-operated school buses, are being considered at the federal level.

To obtain additional information regarding the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, call Steven Piwowarski, Federal Motor Carrier Administrator, at (207) 626-9133 or e-mail him at:  mailto:stevenmpiwowarski@fhwa.dot.gov

 

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A.   Answer :  The laws (statutes) pertaining to school buses and pupil transportation can be found at http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes.

Title 20-A is the education statute, and pupil transportation is found under Chapter 215 in this title.   The laws relative to school buses are primarily found in Chapter 19, sub-chapter IV in title 29-A. 

Rules/regulations can be found in Chapter 81 081.2 at:  http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/rules/05/071/071c081.doc

 

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B.   Answer :  The walking distance is a matter of local policy.   Many districts have set the distances as follows: direct pickup at home for kindergarten, a distance of up to one-half mile for grades 1-8, and a distance of up to a mile for grades 9-12. 

 

Parents can influence these policies by becoming active with the school administrators and school committee, presenting petitions in support of specific limits, discussing the issues with local and state law enforcement agencies and safe school advocates, and sharing information attained from these ventures at public meetings (i.e. school committee meetings, town meetings, etc.).

 

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C.   Answer :  The law specifically leaves the issue to the local authorities to develop a policy to deal with the amount of time a child can ride on a bus.   

Parents can influence these policies by becoming active with the school administrators and school committee, presenting petitions in support of specific limits, discussing the issues with local and state law enforcement agencies and safe school advocates, and sharing information attained from these ventures at public meetings (i.e. school committee meetings, town meetings, etc.).  

 

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D.   Answer :    The regulations regarding becoming a bus driver can be found at http://janus.state.me.us/  Title 29-A includes the Motor Vehicles statutes and 2303 contains the school bus operator requirements.  

Also, the requirements of a school bus physical exam can be found in Chapter 81, 081.6 at http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/rcn/apa/05/chaps05.htm, and additional information can be obtained by contacting the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV)-Commercial Vehicle Division at 624-9000.

 

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E.   Answer :   No.   At this time, the skills are encouraged, but not required.

 

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F.   Answer :  The rules say that the bus driver is not to leave the bus with children on board without first "stopping the bus, setting the brake, putting the transmission in its lowest gear, turning off the engine, and removing the key.   The school bus driver should never leave the school bus as long as there are passengers in the bus."   (The exception being, of course, during severe emergency situations.)

 

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G.   Answer :  According to the State Uniform School Bus Standards in the body specification section under Identification , item 1, paragraph 2, "no other lettering on the front or rear of the bus will be allowed, except the sign EMERGENCY DOOR and a local identification number, if desired, which will be black and not over four (4) inches high."   If not specifically permitted by the regulations, it is not permitted.  

 

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H.   Answer :   School bus regulations begin at the ten-passenger capacity level (as manufactured).   Vehicles manufactured to carry less than ten passengers are not subject to the school bus laws.

 

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I.   Answer :   In Section 29A, sub chapter IV, it states that a "school bus operated on a public way and transporting passengers who do not include school-age persons must have the words 'school bus' removed or concealed and the school bus signal lamps may not be operable." 

 

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J.   Answer :    Yes.   The rules of confidentiality apply.   A clear understanding of federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations and state law contained in the 20-A MRSA sect. 600 is necessary to assure proper confidentiality policies and procedures are in place.

 

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K.   Answer :    Transportation Costs are part of the "other subsidizable costs" calculation within Maine's Essential Programs & Services Funding Model. The Essential Programs & Services funding model is designed to insure that all schools have the programs and resources that are essential for all students to have an equitable opportunity to achieve Maine's Learning Results. For more information go to the Essential Programs and Services web page.

 

 

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L.   Answer :    For questions pertaining to the Maine fuel tax, Elmer Pelletier from the Maine Revenue Service should be contacted.   Mr. Pelletier's phone number is (207) 624-9748 and his e-mail address is mailto:Elmer.Pelletier@maine.gov

 

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M.   Answer :    The state of Maine has adopted the federal regulation 49 CFR part 390, sub-part E in its entirety. All school bus drivers are required to be enrolled in a random drug and alcohol-testing program.   Pre-employment drug tests are a prerequisite with a negative result prior to commencement of employment. Tests are also necessary in the case of a crash resulting in a fatality or a crash resulting in any vehicle being towed if a citation is issued against the bus driver.  

The regulations also require employers to have written policies which describe the actions to be taken if a test indicates a drug or alcohol usage within specific ranges. 

To obtain additional information regarding the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, call Steven Piwowarski, Federal Motor Carrier Administrator, at (207) 626-9133 or e-mail him at mailto:stevenmpiwowarski@fhwa.dot.gov

 

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i.   Answer :   Based on the Maine Department of Education rules, Chapter 101, 06.17, the key to this questions lies within the issue of what programs the Individual's Education Plan (IEP) specifies for the student.   If the student's IEP lists a program(s) or service(s) as necessary for the student to make satisfactory progress in their educational program, and transportation is required to make the program accessible to the student, then the school is responsible for the cost of the transportation.   The above-mentioned rule also states that parents may be offered mileage and expense reimbursement (if they are willing to transport) in lieu of providing other school-based or contracted transportation services.  

If the additional classes are purely optional and not specified in the IEP, then it is up to the parent to get the child to the program and not the school's responsibility.  

 

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ii.  Answer :  New Federal regulations were passed in 2001, which established requirements for the safety features and safe operation of vehicles used to transport children participating in Head Start programs.   These regulations necessitate that Head Start students be transported in a school bus, or an allowable alternative vehicle (AAV), using a licensed school bus driver.   The regulations also require that the students be secured in the bus using a child safety restraint system (CSRS) appropriate for the size and weight of the child, and that a trained transportation aide must be on the bus-in addition to the driver-to assist the students with crossing streets, boarding or exiting the bus, and using the CSRS properly. 

 Maine regulations do not recognize the AAV class of vehicles; therefore, in Maine, the only vehicle allowable is a school bus.

 

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iii.   Answer :    School bus regulations apply to preschool programs in Maine; it is recommended that schools offering transportation to preschool-age children become knowledgeable in both the Federal regulations for Head Start programs (49 CFR part 1310-1311) and the guidelines published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency, which cover the procedure for transporting preschool children and the vehicles used for transporting preschool children.   These guidelines can be found on the Internet at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/.   Local procedures should be developed using the Head Start regulations and the NHTSA guidelines.  

 

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iv.   Answer :   Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to have transportation personnel participate in the Pupil Evaluation Team (PET).  

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that whenever related services are discussed by the Pupil Evaluation Team (PET) for inclusion in a student's IEP, a knowledgeable representative of that service should be included in the discussion.   Transportation is the first related service listed in the special education regulations; thus, when the PET discusses transportation as a related service for a special education student, a school representative for pupil transportation should be invited to participate.   This assures the PET that the best and most practical solutions for meeting special transportation requirements will be considered.  

 

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REFERENCE LIST

List of titles, Maine revised Statutes

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's (NHTSA), Driving Safety, School Buses and Seat Belts

Maine Department of Education rules, Code of Maine Regulations (05-071 CMR, Chapter 81, Uniform School Bus Standards for Pupil Transportation in Maine)

 

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