Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a pile of bills into effect, three of which pertained directly to school transportation.
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The three bills, A2436, A4224 and S2914, address the employment of bus drivers and the post-accident requirements of school professionals if a crash occurs. The bills are in response to the fatal Paramus bus crash that took place last May during a field trip.
- A2436 requires that school district transportation supervisors complete an educational program. Starting in the 2021-2022 school year, according to the bill text, a school district transportation supervisor who is newly hired or has less than 11 years of experience, is required to provide evidence that they completed the School Transportation Supervisors Certification program. The program is offered by the Center for Government Services and the transportation supervisor will have to pay for the program.
- A4224 requires studying the safety of school bus passengers in emergency situations, including school bus accidents. The text states that several agencies will study the safety of school bus passengers who are involved in emergency situations and appropriates $250,000. The study can include an evaluation and requirements relating to school bus safety, the oversight of school bus operations, maintenance of vehicles, school bus driver qualifications, audits of school districts and contractors, plus the current policies, plans and procedures that are implemented by school districts.
- S2914, the last bill, requires suspending the school bus endorsement driver’s licenses if there are three or more motor vehicle moving violations within a three-year period. A school bus endorsement can be suspended for 90 days following the date of the driver’s last conviction. Significantly, the board of education must be notified that the school bus driver has been suspended within one business day of the date of suspension. In addition, in order for the school bus driver to be reinstated, that person must complete a defensive driving course that is approved by their chief administrator.
Background of Crashes
The three bills were written in response to a tragic school bus accident on May 17. A student and a teacher were killed after their school bus collided with a dump truck, following an illegal U-turn on Route 80 by the bus driver. The school bus driver was reported to have had several driving violations that had resulted in 14 suspensions.
“The New Jersey legislature, in response to a tragic school bus accident in 2018 that claimed the life of a student and a teacher, and injured other students, presented a package of school bus safety legislation that Governor Murphy recently signed into law,” said Michael Yaple, director of public information for the New Jersey Department of Education, in a statement to School Transportation News.
He added that, “These laws enable the department to take a closer look at what policies and procedures can be improved to impact student safety on school buses, ensure that school districts are aware of bus driver suspensions in a timely manner, and ensure that those who are responsible for school bus fleets are up to date on the best practices and laws and regulations regarding school bus safety and operations.”