Mr. Robert W. Hawkinson
General Sales Manager
Hawkinson Ford
6100 West 95th Street
Oak Lawn, IL 60453

Dear Mr. Hawkinson:

This responds to your August 28, 1997, request for an interpretation of organizations that are "schools" to which you must not sell buses that are not certified as school buses. As explained below, since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not consider the YMCA or Salvation Army to be "schools," the buses you sell to these organizations need not meet the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) applicable to school buses.

In your letter, you explain that the YMCA and Salvation Army are interested in purchasing 15-passenger Ford Econoline Club Wagons. You are unsure whether NHTSA would consider either organization to be a school. You note that the YMCA may offer classes in basket weaving or wood working to school age children. The Salvation Army uses 15-passenger vehicles to transport school age children to summer camp, which offers classes in archery and swimming.

NHTSA's statute at 49 U.S.C. Section 30125 defines "schoolbus" as "a passenger motor vehicle designed to carry a driver and more than 10 passengers, that the Secretary of Transportation decides is likely to be used significantly to transport preprimary, primary, and secondary school students to or from school or an event related to school."

By regulation (49 CFR Part 571.3), NHTSA has defined "bus" and "school bus." A bus is "a motor vehicle with motive power, except a trailer, designed for carrying more than 10 persons." A school bus is "a bus that is sold, or introduced in interstate commerce, for purposes that include carrying students to and from school or related events, but does not include a bus designed and sold for operation as a common carrier in urban transportation."

In interpreting "school," NHTSA has always looked at the nature of the particular institution purchasing the vehicles. If the central purpose is the education of primary, preprimary, or secondary students, NHTSA has determined that the buses sold must meet the FMVSSs applicable to school buses. If the institution serves a function that is custodial rather than educational, NHTSA has said that the buses need not meet the school bus standards.

In an interpretation letter of November 20, 1978 to DeKalb Rental/Leasing, Inc. (copy enclosed), NHTSA determined that YMCAs are not schools. Similarly, because we consider the Salvation Army's function to be custodial rather than educational, we would not consider the Salvation Army summer camp to be a school. Since neither organization is a school, under Federal law the buses you sell to the YMCA or the Salvation Army summer camp need not be school buses.

I hope this information is helpful. I have enclosed a question-and-answer sheet on "Dealers' Questions About Federal School Bus Safety Requirements." If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.

John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel
Enclosures (2)