Garrett, Hemann, Robertson, Paulus
Jennings & Comstock, P.C.
1011 Commercial Street, N.E.
Salem, OR 97308-0749
Dear Mr. Zagar:
This responds to your letter asking whether a public school district may use a "currently-owned passenger van" which seats more than 10 persons to transport students for school activities.
The law administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) authorizes the agency to regulate the safety of new motor vehicles. The law has recently been recodified as Chapter 301 of Title 49, United States Code, but has not been substantively changed. Under 49 U.S.C. '30125, a Aschool bus@ is any vehicle which is designed to carry 11 or more persons and which is likely to be significantly used to transport students to and from school or related events. Thus, a person selling a vehicle meeting that definition must certify that it meets the safety standards applicable to school buses.
Our standards do not apply to vehicles after their sale to the first retail purchaser. If the purchaser of a 12-15 passenger van that is not certified to the school bus standards decides to use the van to transport students, neither our statute nor our standards would prevent such a use.
However, the states have authority to regulate motor vehicle use within their boundaries. Thus, although NHTSA cannot require the use of school buses to transport students, the State of Oregon may have exercised such authority. Your question about the permissibility of using conventional vans as school vehicles should be addressed to your state officials.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel
cc: Mr. Al Shannon Oregon Director of Pupil Transportation Department of Education 255 Capitol St. NE Salem, OR 97310-0203 ref:571 d:5/17/96 ref:571.3