The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has released a public service announcement reminding school bus drivers and school districts of the dangers of operating routes with too many children on board.
Christie Hebert, the state director of pupil transportation at DPS, said last week that her office has already received numerous calls and email complaints about the issue at the start of the new school year. The complaints focused on the alleged overcrowding of school buses, and students standing in and walking around the school bus while it is in motion.
Hebert told School Transportation News that she sent the announcement as a reminder because these incidents seem to occur at the start of every new school year.
“What happens is school districts don’t plan their routes right, or kids don’t sign up for buses like they are supposed to,” Hebert commented. “And so, (districts) end up having more kids than planned. But it can be a number of things. So, I just like to send it out to the districts that they need to be aware of it.”
Hebert stressed it is a violation of Texas law for a commercial driver to operate a bus that is above the maximum design capacity.
Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.426, Operation of a School Bus also states that a driver cannot operate the bus while a passenger is standing in the bus, or sitting in any location that is is not designed as a seat.
Hebert noted that any school bus driver who is found in violation of these laws will be held responsible and will be cited. She added that any student who is not seated properly in a seat risks serious injury and that all aisles must be kept clear for emergency evacuation purposes.
“Please keep this in mind when consolidating your routes to accommodate for driver shortages,” Hebert urged.
Hebert also said that if a driver notices there are too many kids on their bus, changes need to be made.
“Be aware of it,” Hebert continued. “And if the bus is starting to get too full, they [school districts] are going to have to change their route.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, bus manufacturers determine the maximum seating capacity of a school bus. NHTSA recommends that all passengers be seated entirely within the confines of the school bus seat while the school bus is in motion.