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Interpretation ID: 002148drn

    Janice Eret, Program Specialist
    Nebraska Department of Education
    301 Centennial Mall South
    P.O. Box 94987
    Lincoln, NB 68509-4987

    Dear Ms. Eret:

    This responds to your March 26, 2003, letter to Dorothy Nakama of my staff requesting our views about proposed changes to the Nebraska Department of Educations pupil transportation rules that would create a multi-function activity bus classification that your State would permit to be used to transport pupils on school activity trips. In essence, the multi-function activity bus is a school bus without the school bus stop arm and the rear flashing lamps. You ask if the proposed changes would be permitted under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSAs) regulations.

    As you know, NHTSA is considering creating a new school bus vehicle subcategory that can be sold for school activity purposes. On November 5, 2002, (67 FR 67373) NHTSA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to establish a new school bus subcategory, the Multifunction School Activity Bus (MFSAB). As proposed, an MFSAB would be a school bus with a gross vehicle weight rating of 6,804 kilograms (15,000 pounds) or less that meets all school bus Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs), except for those requiring the stop arm and the flashing lights of a school bus. If NHTSA issues a final rule establishing the MFSAB subcategory, school bus manufacturers and dealers will be permitted to sell new MFSABs to schools and school districts for activity purposes.

    At present, school buses must have the stop arm required by FMVSS No. 131 and the rear flashing lamps required by FMVSS No. 108. Because multi-function activity buses would not have the stop arms and flashing lights, they could not be certified as meeting all school bus FMVSSs and thus cannot be sold to transport pupils to or from school or on school activities.

    If NHTSA makes the changes proposed by the November 2002 NPRM, then Nebraskas change to its regulation that permits the sale of the activity buses for school activity trips would be permitted. The agency is presently reviewing the comments responding to the NPRM and anticipates issuing a decision shortly.

    If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama at this address or at (202) 366-2992.

    Jacqueline Glassman

    Chief Counsel