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Guiding Principles

USING THE DOCUMENT

Certain objectives and guiding principles have a vital role in the development of the specifications for school buses and procedures for their operation. These objectives and guiding principles have been reaffirmed and emphasized at the National Congressess since 1939. The two major objectives, safety and efficiency, along with the guiding principles stated herein, have served as guideposts for making decisions regarding the specifications and procedures and in arriving at sound and common agreement.

Adequate state and federal regulations governing school bus specifications and operation provide two key ingredients for the safe, comfortable and efficient transportation of pupils. Safety includes all factors relating to school bus equipment, performance specifications and operational procedures that may directly or indirectly affect the safety and welfare of pupils transported.

Efficiency includes the management of specifications, procurement and maintenance of school buses, the operational practices and procedures of staff consistent with the safety and welfare of pupils and the effective use of financial resources.

GUIDING PRINCIPLES

A. Federal standards and state specifications for school buses and procedures for their operation should:

  • Be consistent with the objectives of safety and efficiency;
  • Ensure the construction and use of safe buses;
  • Reduce conflicting specifications and procedures among states wherever possible; and
  • Specify exact dimensions where necessary to increase the quality and efficiency of manufacture.

B. Any adaptation of these national specifications and procedures should be made by states only in order to adjust to local needs and only when such adaptations do not:

  • Conflict with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS);
  • Conflict with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Highway Safety Guideline #17 - Pupil Transportation Safety; and
  • Unduly increase operation or production costs.

C. State specifications for school buses and operational procedures should be written in terms of the performance desired, thus assuring that the resulting state regulations are enforceable.

D. Provisions should be made within each state for periodic review and revision of its specifications for school buses and procedures for their operation.

E. State specifications for school buses and procedures for their operation should allow for state approval of the use of new inventions and improvements that are consistent with safety and efficiency.

F. State specifications for school buses should provide for a degree of flexibility (consistent with safety and efficiency) to accommodate the various manufacturers.

G. State specifications for school buses should recognize that the actual design of school buses is a responsibility of the manufacturers..

H. The current National School Transportation Specifications and Procedures are considered as recommendations to the states. Revisions of these specifications and procedures are made only when evidence indicates that such revisions are needed.

INTENDED USE

These specifications for school buses and procedures for operation are available for states to consider when establishing their standards, specifications, recommendations, and guidelines. As a general rule, state legislatures should confer upon the appropriate state agency or regulatory body the general responsibility for setting up statewide rules and regulations regarding the specifications for school bus chassis, bodies and equipment and the procedures for school transportation operations.

The specifications and procedures for school transportation appearing in this report represent the official actions of the delegates to the 13th National Congress on School Transportation and comprise recommendations to regulatory authorities or other parties. Except for restatements of federal standards, laws and rules that may be contained herein, these recommendations are not regulatory until they are officially adopted by the appropriate state regulatory authority to become legally effective within that state. It should be noted that some items in this report are informational only and do not constitute "recommendations" of the delegates.

In considering these specifications and procedures for adoption into state regulations, each portion or individual content item should be reviewed by the state to determine its applicability, as recommended by the delegates. The following terms are used throughout this document to define the recommended applicability within states adopting these specifications and procedures:

A. SHALL - a mandatory condition. Where certain school bus designs, equipment or operations are described with the "shall" stipulation, it is mandatory that all school buses and all school bus operations meet those requirements as written.

Note: The word "shall" also is used when referring to items that are already adopted into
federal laws, standards, or regulations.

B. SHOULD - an advisory condition. Where certain school bus designs, equipment or operations are described with the word "should," such items are considered to be advisable usage. In other words, the item is recommended, but not mandatory for all school buses or all school bus operations.

C. MAY - a permissive condition. Where certain school bus designs, equipment or operations are described with the word "may," such items are considered for possible usage. However, there is no intent that the item be required for all school buses or all school bus operations.

Recognizing that many of these specifications and procedures (those using the above definition of "shall") are recommended as requirements and will become requirements when they are adopted into regulations by individual states, the principles and guidelines for the intended use of this report are consistent with the following "Statement of Understanding" adopted by the Steering Committee of the 13th National Congress on School Transportation on July 10, 1999 (for inclusion herein). In the context of this overall report, the following statement reminds persons using the report that until these specifications and procedures are adopted into state regulations, either by reference or directly, adherence to their provisions is voluntary:

The purpose of this publication is to serve as a basis for the separate states to establish specifications, rules, and/or regulations for school transportation within those states. This publication is representative of the views of professional practitioners from the states represented at the 13th National Congress on School Transportation. Its emphasis on practices, procedures, and performance encompasses school transportation in total and includes guidelines for school buses and school bus operations. The material contained herein will provide useful guidance for school transportation specialists in each state; however, it does not establish specifications or standards for any state. Use of this publication in part or in its entirety is completely voluntary.