NEW GUIDELINES BOLSTER SAFETY OF CHARTER BUSES FOR SCHOOL FIELD TRIPS
Principals, teachers, and parents can breathe a little easier this year when students are boarded on charter buses for field trips thanks to new guidelines and procedures schools can use when chartering motorcoaches.
The recommendations were developed by the School Charter Transportation Safety Committee, an interagency task force whose members represented the Public Schools of North Carolina, the Division of Motor Vehicles, the North Carolina Motorcoach Association and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The Committee's mission was to formulate guidelines and procedures to be used by schools and school districts to help ensure the safety of public school children when chartered transportation is required for field trips.
"Student safety is a very high priority for public schools. When classes take field trips, principals find that activity buses are not always available. When schools or districts choose to use charter buses, we hope they'll use these guidelines so that students will be as safe as possible," State Superintendent Mike Ward said.
Although development of the charter transportation guidelines had begun in June 2000, an accident involving a group of high school students from Cumberland County this spring intensified the need for specific guidelines to help local districts hire the safest and most reliable charter transportation possible.
State Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said, "Safety is the department's top priority. These new procedures give school systems, church groups and other organizations specific guidelines on a company's safety record, what questions to ask and other pertinent information before scheduling a motorcoach company. Providing these guidelines is a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting our children."
The guidelines outline the following three-step approach schools can use when contracting with providers of motorcoach transportation:
- Conduct a pre-qualification background check of potential motorcoach providers. This includes conducting a site visit, reference checks and proper documentation as to insurance and driver qualifications. The list of eligible companies should be established centrally and updated annually.
- Contract for a specific trip and make sure that the school and contractor understand exactly what is expected.
- Conduct a pre-trip review at the time of the trip to ensure that the driver and vehicles meet all criteria immediately before departure.
To help promote these recommendations, the FMCSA conducted a series of workshops this summer to properly train local school personnel involved in the process of selecting and contracting charter bus services for the transportation of school children to special events and activities.
Julie Anna Cirillo, acting deputy administrator and chief safety officer for FMCSA said that they were excited to be a part of this innovative and exciting approach to bus safety. "Improving highway safety is something we want to achieve, but too often we aren't able to turn "wants" into reality. In North Carolina, it is going to happen! When so many groups and individuals, public and private, work together as they are doing here, the result is greater safety for everyone, especially children on buses. North Carolina's series of seminars and public meetings can be a model for the Nation."
The recommended guidelines were distributed to all North Carolina public school systems and can be found on the Pupil Transportation Web site, http://www.ncbussafety.org. For more information, please contact Derek Graham, Transportation Services, DPI, 919.807.3571 or Major Charlie Carden, DMV Enforcement, 919.861.3164.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.