Ron Love, State Director of Pupil Transportation
Delaware Department of Education
The Townsend Building
P. O. Box 1402
Dover, DE 19903-1402
Dear Mr. Love:
This responds to your letter and telephone conversations with agency staff in this office and in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations (NHTSAs) Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance about the sale, for pupil transportation, of a new vehicle whose seating capacity you believe may have been reduced from that of a bus (seating 11 persons or more).
As to your general inquiry, if a buss seating capacity were permanently reduced to less than 11 before the vehicles sale, the vehicle would no longer be a "bus" and thus would not be subject to our school bus standards. The modified vehicle would instead be considered a multipurpose passenger vehicle (MPV). While a dealer may sell or lease a new MPV to a school (provided there are no local regulations that would prohibit the sale), the entity altering the vehicle from a bus to an MPV must certify the vehicle as an MPV and ensure that it complies with all Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) that apply to MPVs. I have enclosed a copy of an April 2, 1996, letter to Sgt. Stephan C. Turner that provides a helpful discussion of this issue.
As to the particular vehicle you ask about, information available to our Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance (OVSC) has indicated that the van was originally manufactured as a multipurpose passenger vehicle. According to this information, the vehicles classification had not been changed from a bus to an MPV. Thus, the vehicle, as originally manufactured, would have had to have been certified as meeting the FMVSSs that apply to MPVs.
If you have further questions about NHTSAs school bus laws, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992. Questions you might have about the van you saw may be directed to Mr. James Jones, OVSC, at (202) 366-5294.