Hawaii Association of Independent Schools

Transportation Guidelines

Federal Law

The National Highway Transportation & Safety Authority (NHTSA) recommends against the use of 10 to 15 passenger vans for the transportation of students to and from school organized/sanctioned events; however, it is currently not against federal law to do so. Federal law is specific only on two points in this area: 1) If a school provides transportation from home to school at the beginning of the day and/or from school to home at the end of the day, then the school must use authorized school bus vehicles for this service; and 2) It is against federal law for an automobile dealer to sell a 10 to 15 passenger van to a school for the purpose of transporting students, although it is not against the law for schools to buy one. The automobile dealer can be fined $10,000 for each violation of this policy and up to $10,000,000 for repeated violations of this policy. There is currently no fine for schools. The NHTSA has been lobbying Congress to make the use of such vans illegal for many years and may at some point succeed. About a dozen states have thus far made the use of such vans illegal in their states. Basically, the federal law recommends the use of school buses or vans that have been constructed to the qualifications of school buses whenever possible. The law also defines any vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds as a “bus” if it is used to transport students. Most 6 to 10 passenger vans and even some 10 to 15 passenger vans weigh less than 10,000 pounds, and so they would not be considered “buses” under federal law.

State Law

The Hawaii State Dept. of Transportation (HDOT) also recommends against the use of 10 to 15 passenger vans for the transportation of students to and from school organized/sanctioned events; however, it is currently not against State law to do so.  HDOT is also working with the state legislature to make the use of such vans illegal as has been done in other states.  Current state law – 286-181 c2 – grants to the Board of Education and HAIS Board of Directors the right to issue “exemptions” from the HDOT recommendations.  Both HDOE and HAIS have issued such exemptions.

Transportation Exemptions and Forms

HAIS Transportation Policy and Exemptions – The HAIS Board of Directors has approved the use of the following by member schools:

The “Transportation Exemption” allows a school to use other forms of commercial transportation – a commercial tour bus – when an authorized school bus (the school’s own school bus or a commercial school bus from Roberts or Ground Transportation) is not available or would not be practical in terms of size, cost or duration of the activity. That is, if the school can rent a smaller or less expensive tour vehicle that is more appropriate for the activity than a regular school bus, or, if a regular school bus is not available from a contractor, then this exemption and form should be used to authorize the use of an appropriate commercial vehicle. The guidelines for the use of this form are on the back of the form. This form must be signed by the head of school or his/her delegated person in order to be valid; and one copy should be retained in the school office and one copy provided to the driver of the vehicle. HAIS does not need to receive a copy.
 
The “Private Vehicle Exemption” allows a school to use a “private vehicle” - that is, any vehicle that weighs less than 10,000 pounds – to transport students to and from school organized/sanctioned events and activities. A school could use one of its own vehicles or the vehicle of a faculty/staff member or parent to transport students for this event or activity. The guidelines for the use of this form are on the back of the form. This form must be signed by the head of school or his/her delegated person in order to be valid; and one copy should be retained in the school office and one copy provided to the driver of the vehicle. HAIS does not need to receive a copy.
 
The “Parent Authorization Form” should be used each time a student will be transported off campus by the school for a school organized/sanctioned event. It is up to each school to decide whether it will require this form be completed for each and every occurrence of off-campus transportation or if one form can be used for multiple occurrences.

Insurance Coverage

Since both federal and state law are somewhat ambiguous in this matter – i.e., they recommend against the use of 10 to 15 passenger vans and private vehicles but it is not illegal – it is important for each school to review these HAIS exemptions and forms with its insurance provider to make sure that the school will be covered for insurance purposes in case of an accident. The insurance provider may wish to suggest additional requirements or statements on the forms, and each school is welcome to modify these forms to meet its own needs.

Conclusion

As a basic guideline for the transportation of students to and from school organized/sanctioned events, if a school bus is available, use it; if a school bus is not available, consider using a “private vehicle” that seats 10 or fewer persons; and, if neither of these options are possible, use a 10 to 15 passenger van as a last resort with great caution.

Resources

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