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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools


FROM:            J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner


SUBJECT:       Use of Vans to Transport Students


DATE:             October 23, 2001



The use of vans, and in fact, other non-school bus vehicles, for transporting students to and from school or school-related activities continues to be a topic of great concern to school administrators, parents and several State and Federal agencies.  Daily, school administrators and parents ask us, “What is the law?”


Federal laws contained in 49 U.S.C. Section 30125, define a school bus as “any vehicle, having a capacity of more than 10 passengers, that the Secretary of Transportation decides is likely to be used significantly to transport pre-primary, primary, and secondary school students to and from school or an event related to school”.  Furthermore, 49 U.S.C. Section 30112 makes it illegal for a dealer to sell, lease or otherwise make available any new vehicle having a capacity of more than 10 persons to any individual or organization if the intended use of that vehicle is to transport children to and from school or school-related activities unless the vehicle is in full compliance with all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for school buses.  Federal regulations address the sale, lease or providing of such vehicles, and only address the use of the vehicles for federally funded programs (such as Head Start).  General use of vans by public and private schools is left for each state to regulate.


Maine law, 29-A §2301 (5) defines a school bus as “a motor vehicle with a carrying capacity of 10 or more persons 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”.  This section makes a specific exception to this definition for 10 to 15-passenger vehicles used by private schools for transporting students for other than to and from school.  Additional state requirements for the design of school buses and for required equipment are included in 29-A §2302 and in the Maine Department of Education Rules, Chapter 81.  Maine law also requires that all school bus drivers carry the appropriate class of drivers license with a current school bus driver’s endorsement attached.


Vehicles that are manufactured as 10 to 15 passenger vans do not meet the federal safety standards required for a school bus and clearly, the purchase and use of 10 to 15 passenger vans by public schools is not in compliance with either federal or state laws.


There are van-size vehicles available that meet all of the federal and state requirements for a school bus.  Additional information on these vehicles is available through the State School Bus Purchasing program.  If you have any questions regarding this issue, contact Harvey Boatman at 624-6884 or by email at