School bus rules changes proposed

TRENTON – The Motor Vehicle Commission is considering changing various rules regarding school buses including,  among other things, changing inspection intervals.

The proposed amendments include, for the first time, a definition for accident. While it defines “accident” as a collision between the bus and another vehicle, it also describes accident as one that involves ”an injury to a student inside a school bus or vehicle that results from negligent or unsafe acceleration, deceleration or other movement.”

The amendments will define “driver” as “the authorized licensed driver of a school bus” and operator as “the owner of person responsible for the day-to-day operation and maintenance of a school bus.”

The amendments were the result of meetings with bus officials who made the various recommendations.

“These requirements are intended to set standards for equipment and inspection and maintenance in order to advance overall highway safety,” Motor Vehicle Commission spokesperson Michael Horan  said.

School buses would also no longer be mandated to have first aid kits. The rationale is because “drivers are not permitted to use first aid kits on students,” according to the rule.

Horan added that some buses actually received failing marks because the kits didn’t contain 100 bandages, as the rules require.

“There would be 96 bandages in there, and the bus would fail inspection,” he said. “It is a little bit misleading. It caused undue violations.”

One of the amendments calls for changing the required inspection intervals to every three months or according to the manufacturer’s schedule. The amendment was the result of several officials complaining that the current inspection interval (every 3,000 miles) was onerous.

Horan said the amendment is intended to “streamline” the inspection process and added that safety of the buses will not be compromised.

“It spaces out the inspections a little bit more, without jeopardizing the safety of the buses,” he said.

The motor vehicle division has 80 bus inspectors who perform some 79,999 inspections each year at 1,400 terminals around the state.

The MVC also said that under the current set-up, “it has not been shown that inspections at every 3,000 miles increase safety.”

Another amendment calls for allowing fingerprints to be submitted electronically, a move that officials say could generate financial savings.

“This lessened burden could, in turn, lessen the financial costs of record retention,” the proposal states.

  School bus rules changes proposed