Carlton R. Csiki, Division Chief
Commercial Vehicle Safety Division
Department of Motor Vehicles
State of Connecticut
60 State Street
Wethersfield, CT 06161

Dear Mr. Csiki:

This responds to your November 10, 1997, request that we clarify our pupil transportation policies concerning which vehicles we believe should be used to carry students to school-related events. I appreciate this opportunity to address your concerns.

Your letter follows up on an October 15, 1997, letter that Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D. sent to pupil transportation officials of each state which recommended, among other things, that certified school buses should be used to transport children to and from school and school-related events. You state that Connecticut does not prohibit the use of buses other than school buses (hereinafter referred to as "non-school buses") to transport students to and from school-related events. You believe that it may not be feasible to transport students on long field trips in a school bus, and ask whether the recommendation is contrary to provisions in Highway Safety Program Guideline No. 17, Pupil Transportation Safety (Guideline 17), which appear to make allowance for the use of "school-chartered buses" (which are non-school buses) for special events.

Our position is that children are safest when in school buses and thus these vehicle should be used rather than conventional buses, certainly when transporting children on a regular basis to and from school-related events. It should be noted that Federal law prohibits persons from selling new non-school buses if the vehicles will be used significantly for school-related events. However, non-school buses may be occasionally rented for special school-related events, because an occasional rental does not constitute "significant use" as a school bus.

Guideline 17 reflects the real world possibility that a non-school bus might have to be rented from time to time for a special event. Under the guideline, these buses, which the guideline refers to as "school-chartered buses," would be subject to the guideline's recommendations for the safe operation of school vehicles but not to the recommendations for equipping school buses with mirrors, lamps and stop arms and identifying them with signs and yellow paint. This distinction was to promote safety on trips to special events without imposing unreasonable burdens on school administrators.

The guideline's provisions for non-school buses only address the occasional, short-term rental of the vehicles. As for buses that are regularly used for school-related events, there is no question that school buses are among the safest vehicles on the road today and should be used instead of non-school buses to transport school children. We ask you and your colleagues to further consider choosing school buses over non-school buses for transporting students to these school-related events.

If you have any further questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.

John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel