In the United States, state, national and local governments are entwined in the warp and woof of school bus service.
Because of the overriding concern for the safety of the youngsters it transports, the pupil transportation industry is one of the few enterprises that seek more rather than less government regulation.
Through the federal motor vehicle safety standards, the federal government controls the manufacturing of school buses, ensuring they are built to exacting safety standards. The the federal government developments regulations and guidelines about various aspects of school bus safety.
Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was given responsibility for developing operational regulations for school transportation. Occasionally Congress enacts new legislation that affects the industry. Federal agencies in turn develop regulations. Unlike public mass transit, the federal government does not fund school transportation.
The role of the federal government in the industry is not as great as the state governments, but without federal involvement the standardization that characterizes the industry would not exist.
Most regulatory control occurs at the state and provincial levels. Once the buses are actually on the highway state laws and regulations take over and govern the operational aspects of school buses in service. Currently more than 500 laws, and countless regulations, are on the books of states in the United States governing some aspect of the industry. New ones are being added regularly.
In addition to federal motor vehicle safety standards, other federal regulations govern school bus transportation. One of the most important is the “S” endorsement on the commercial drivers license for school bus drivers.
Regarding Congress’ role in school transportation, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously on May 19, 2006 to approve a resolution that the federal government will honor the nation’s yellow school bus fleet during the third week of October each year with School Bus Safety Week.