NSTA Applauds House Passage of H.R. 3095
NSTA applauds the House passage of H.R. 3095, a bill requiring the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to only address screening and testing for obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders for drivers of commercial motor vehicles through the formal notice and comment rulemaking process. The bill passed the House by an overwhelming vote of 405-0.
We now turn our attention to the Senate where NSTA has called on all of its members to reach out to their Senators in an effort to secure additional co-sponsors to S. 1537, the companion bill to H.R. 3095. NSTA is hopeful the Senate will also take swift action on the bill.
“We are very appreciative with the swift action by the House of Representatives and remain grateful to Congressmen Doctor Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Nick Joe Rahall (D-WV), as well as all of the co-sponsors of H.R. 3095, for their leadership on this important legislation. Safety is always our top priority and this legislation ensures a thorough review of the issue in a careful way, including a cost-benefit analysis, to ensure that any new mandate will actually improve safety,” stated NSTA President Tim Flood.
NSTA would also like to take this opportunity to thank our industry partners whose joint efforts were instrumental in the development of this legislation: American Bus Association; American Moving and Storage Association; American Trucking Association; Associated General Contractors; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services; Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association; and United Motorcoach Association.
NSTA Commends FMCSA for Withdrawing Entry-Level Driver Training NPRM
NSTA commends the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on its recent announcement to withdraw its December 26, 2007 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing new entry-level driver training standards for commercial motor vehicle drivers applying for a CDL to operate in interstate commerce.
At each opportunity NSTA has worked to clarify a number of misconceptions by FMCSA on how contractors train drivers and to quantify the effect of such regulations on the industry. Specifically, the regulations presumed that:
School bus drivers receive their training in the same manner as motorcoach, transit and truck drivers;
The same curricula for school bus drivers and truck drivers is appropriate; and School bus contractors have separate employees for home-to-school routes and separate employees for activity trips.
In addition, NSTA has repeatedly recognized that FMCSA has severely underestimated this regulation’s financial impact on the school transportation industry. Based on FMCSA’s calculations, the regulation in 2007 would have had a financial impact on the industry of $346,300 in the first year. NSTA estimates that burden to be closer to $88,408,800 in the first year – a significant difference.
NSTA has been very active on this issue. NSTA sent comments to the NPRM in January 2008 and then sent a letter to FMCSA in December 2012 once FMCSA began to revisit the issue. NSTA also offered formal comments at the January 2012 FMCSA listening session in Charlotte, North Carolina on this issue. Over the past year, the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) has repeatedly discussed this issue and NSTA’s representative and Chairman of NSTA’s Safety and Security Committee, Gary Catapano, has been a strong advocate for the school transportation industry in those discussions.
“We are grateful that FMCSA has taken the opportunity for a more thorough research process on this regulation. The financial and procedural consequences of this regulation on the school transportation industry are significant and a thoughtful approach is in the best interests of all. Safety is without a doubt our top priority, but we must consider every change to current regulations carefully. FMCSA has made the right decision,” offered NSTA President, Tim Flood.
“We thank FMCSA for their willingness to work further on this issue. In addition, I would like to thank FMCSA personally, for the opportunity to serve on the MCSAC Committee and share the safety performance and operational aspects of the school transportation industry,” noted NSTA Safety and Security Committee and MCSAC Member, Gary Catapano.
NSTA Commends FMCSA for Final Rule on Unified Registration Systems
NSTA commends the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for its recent final rule on the Unified Registration System (URS).
The rule, which combines the registration system into a unified system, requires contractors subject to FMCSRs for interstate field trips and athletic trips organized and paid for by the school district and not doing any other charter work to register with FMCSA and obtain a USDOT number.
During the Comment Period, NSTA raised several issues of concern for contractors and asked FMCSA for clarification. FMCSA clarified the following: the school bus exemption is not effected by the rule in any way; contractors should only declare the portion of their vehicles and drivers used in interstate commerce operations and not the portion that are used solely in school bus operations; and payments made by a municipality to a for-hire school bus operator to provide non-exempt transportation of students would be considered compensation rather than a subsidy. All of these clarifications result in a significant savings to the industry.
“The National School Transportation Association would like to thank the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for their diligence in answering the questions posed by the industry. Their common sense approach to these concerns will result in tremendous savings to the industry. This is a great example of NSTA’s value to our members and the industry. Without NSTA’s efforts, the industry would now bear a great burden,” stated NSTA President Tim Flood.
NSTA Joins Forces on Sleep Apnea
NSTA and our industry partners have worked with Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to introduce legislation in the House to prohibit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) from proceeding with issuing guidance addressing screening and testing for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) for drivers of commercial motor vehicles. The legislation would require FMCSA to address the issues only through the issuance of formal notice and comment rulemaking proceedings.
H.R. 3095 was introduced by Congressman Dr. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) on Thursday, September 12. NSTA asked members to join in securing as many co-sponsors to this legislation as possible.
The six associations that have joined together to support this legislation are:
American Trucking Association;
American Bus Association;
International Brotherhood of Teamsters;
National School Transportation Association;
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association; and
United Motorcoach Association.
The bill can be found through this link and Dear Colleague letter can be found by clicking here. For an updated list of co-sponsors to this bill, please follow the link here.
The list of Members of Congress who signed onto a letter from Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI) to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro in May asking for the issue to be considered through rulemaking follows.
Tom Petri (R-WI)
Jimmy Duncan (R-TN)
Reid Ribble (R-WI)
Jim Gerlachk (R-PA)
Chris Gibson (R-NY)
Richard Hanna (R-NY)
Kristi Noem (R-SD)
Tim Walberg (R-MI)
Mike Pompeo (R-KS)
Howard Coble (R-NC)
Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
Robert Goodlatte (R-VA)
Rodney Davis (R-IL)
Sam Graves (R-MO)
Joe Pitts (R-PA)
Tim Huelskamp (R-KS)
Paul Tonko (D-NY)
Steve Israel (D-NY)
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Mike Rogers (R-MI)
Bill Lipinski (D-IL)
Mike Michaud (D-ME)
NSTA meets with US Congressmen, Senators at our Nation’s Capital
From Tuesday, April 24 through Thursday, April 26, the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) held its annual Spring “Bus-In” where members participated in over 130 congressional meetings across Capitol Hill. The event was organized by the Prime Policy Group and included member committee meetings, a panel on the 2012 Presidential race, and a series of presentations from our country’s top transportation and environmental experts, including House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman, John Mica.
Issues discussed in both senate and congressional meetings included the surface transportation reauthorization conference, school bus safety issues, and the relationship between public and private busing. Funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act was also a topic of importance.
Becky Weber of the Prime Policy Group kicked off the event by saying, “You are here this week to exercise your first amendment right. This is one of the most important things you can do as an American citizen.”
NSTA President Magda Dimmendaal, President-Elect Tim Flood, Secretary-Treasurer Todd Monteferrario, and Past-President Donnie Fowler were all in attendance, along with Association and Industry Development Chairman Rob Nelson and Government Relations Chairman John Corr.
"BUS-TED" NSTA also received a mention in DC's must-read on Capitol Hill.
For pictures of the event, click here.
High-Ranking Federal Officials Join with NSTA and ASBC to Celebrate National "Love the Bus Event" in Maryland
NSTA President Magda Dimmendaal, President-Elect Tim Flood, Secretary-Treasurer Todd Monteferrario, Past-President Donnie Fowler and NSTA Board member Gail Hyser joined the American School Bus Council (ASBC) and high-ranking federal officials on February 21, 2012 for the national “Love the Bus” event at Sunderland Elementary School in Calvert County, MD. NSTA Safety and Security Chairman Gary Catapano was also in attendance.
February is celebrated as “Love the Bus” month where students, parents, and faculty are encouraged to show their appreciation for the yellow school bus and the drivers who help make access to education possible. Over 26 million children across the country are transported by school buses, which are the safest form of transportation according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Ron Medford, Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), and President Dimmendaal were among the speakers who addressed first graders at Sunderland Elementary.
“Did you know that there are three generations driving the bus in Calvert County?” Dimmendaal said, “There is a daughter, her mother, and her grandmother who are all helping you get to school safely each day.”
Administrator Ferro told students that their bus drivers have to take special tests in order to ensure they transport students as safely as possible. She concluded by saying that FMCSA “thinks safety—every trip, every time.”
Before students were released to their classrooms awards were given out to the top three “Love the Bus” posters drawn by the students themselves. NSTA would like to extend congratulations to the top three winners: Gabrielle Sturdevant, Sasha Barley, and Tierra Russell.
Thank you to ASBC, Sunderland Elementary School, and the students and faculty members who made the event a success. You can view pictures from the event on ASBC's Facebook Page
. Secretary Ray LaHood, Department of Transportation, also posted about the event on his blog, Fastlane
National Transportation Safety Board calls for First-Ever Ban Nationwide Ban on PEDs while Driving
On Tuesday, December 13, 2011 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a meeting to discuss the Highway Accident Report for the Multi-Vehicle Collision in Gary Summit, Missouri that occurred on August 5, 2010. This meeting led to a recommendation that called for a nationwide ban on driver use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) while operating a motor vehicle.
The incident involved a pickup truck that collided into the back of a truck tractor that had slowed due to traffic in a work zone. The pickup truck was then struck from behind by a school bus. That same school bus was hit from behind by another school bus that had been following closely behind. The accident culminated in two fatalities and 38 injuries, leaving NTSB to consider the causes behind this accident in order to prevent such devastating loses from happening in the future.
NSTA staff attended the meeting where a summary, probable cause, and a conclusion of the Gary Summit accident were presented. As a result of these findings NTSB made 13 new recommendations; one of which calls for a ban on the use of PEDs while operating a motor vehicle. NTSB came out with a press release on the ban this afternoon which can be found here.
Three of the 13 new recommendations were addressed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and directly affect the school bus industry:
1. Modify Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 217 to require that all emergency exits on school buses be easily opened and remain open during an emergency evacuation. (H-11-XX)
2. Modify Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 217 or the corresponding laboratory test procedure to eliminate the potential for objects such as latch plates to protrude into the emergency exit window opening space even when that protrusion still allows the exit window to meet the opening size requirements. (H-11-XX)
3. To cover the interim period until Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 217 is modified as specified in Safety Recommendations 1 and 2 above, provide the states with guidance on how to minimize potential evacuation delays that could be caused by protruding latch mechanisms on emergency exit windows and by exit windows that require additional manual assistance to remain open during egress. (H-11-XX)
The Board Meeting Summary, including findings and full recommendation listings may be found here.
For the official NTSB Safety Recommendation, released on Feb. 8, 2012, and addressed to NSTA, National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), click here.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announces denial of petition to require lap/shoulder belts in large school buses
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on Thursday, August 25 a denial of petition for rulemaking. The petition, to mandate the installation of three-point seatbelts for all seating positions on all school buses, was denied due to three main components: NHTSA has not found a safety problem supporting a Federal requirement for lap/shoulder belts on large school buses; the cost and consequences of ordering and equipping seat belts on large buses would exceed the benefit; and the decision of mandating seat-belt installation needs to be handled under the jurisdiction of State and local governing bodies. The petitioners include the Center for Auto Safety along with 21 others.
In regard to the safety aspect of seat belts on a school bus, various studies have shown that it is the structure of bus seats, not the use of seat belts that provide children more security in times of a school bus collision (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Report to Congress—School Bus Safety: Crashworthiness Research, April 2002
). In this report NHSTA concluded that “compartmentalization” was the safety measure that effectively lowered injuries. “Compartmentalization”, as defined by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 222, is a protective envelope formed of strong, closely spaced seats that have energy absorbing seat backs so that passengers are better cushioned and contained in the event of a school bus crash. The taller the bus seats, the more protected pupils are on school buses. NHTSA took notice of such findings and undertook measures to raise minimum seat back height on school bus passenger seats in 2010 (Regulation Identifier Number 2127-AK49). This rule also required small buses to have lap/shoulder belts at each passenger seating position. Because of the deceleration experienced by small school buses, there is necessity in creating an exception for such motor vehicles.
NHTSA has also been sensitive to the fact that mandatory seat belt installation could burden struggling public school system budgets. A study conducted by the State of Alabama in 2010 concluded that, in their state, the estimated net benefit of implementing seat belts on Alabama school buses was found to be -104 million to -125 million dollars (“Cost Effectiveness of Lap/Shoulder Seat Belts on Large Alabama School Buses” Sept. 30, 2010
). On October 21, 2008, the agency issued a final rule, 73 FR, upgrading the passenger protection requirements for school buses. During this proceeding it was found that the estimated incremental cost of installing lap/shoulder belts in large school buses
is $5,485-$7,346. This does not account for other factors post-installation like higher fuel costs due to added bus weight. This financial concern has the potential for school bus cutbacks, forcing children to seek alternative, less safe modes of transportation to get to and from school. One example could be riding with an inexperienced driver, particularly a teenage driver, who is far more prone to motor vehicle accidents. According to the Department of Transportation, the school bus occupant fatality rate is six times lower than the rates for passenger cars (DOT/NHTSA “2008 Traffic Safety Facts”)
The agency also affirmed in the October 2008 Final Rule that State and local jurisdictions should continue to have the choice of whether to require seat belts on their local large school buses. NHTSA stated that States and local school districts are better able to analyze school transportation in particular to them and identify approaches to best manage and reduce those safety risks. (Final Rule, 73FR at 62745). This assessment was reinforced by the State of Alabama’s study that has already concluded the cost benefit analysis of not having seat belts in school buses in their state greatly outweighs requiring seat belts in their state.
NSTA will continue to keep our members updated with the latest developments in school bus safety regulations.
US Department of Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, visits with delegates in Baltimore
Secretary LaHood stopped by the Annual Meeting and Convention on July 19 , 2011 to speak with NSTA members about the importance of getting more students on yellow buses. You can read the full text of the Secretary’s speech here.
The question and answer portion after Secretary LaHood’s speech was also very encouraging. Both contractor and vendor members posed questions to the Secretary and his staff regarding important issues the school bus industry faces today. From sleep apnea to incorporating fleets in emergency relief situations, we at NSTA have the ability to make a difference by working together with the Department of Transportation. Secretary LaHood helped brainstorm ideas about how to further tackle our concerns and is extremely supportive of a successful partnership between both NSTA and his office.
Secretary LaHood talks more about the National School Transportation Association in his blog, Fast Lane.
Congressman Tim Scott delivers Keynote Speech
Congressman Tim Scott of South Carolina continued to show is support of the National School Transportation Association at our Annual Meeting and Convention on July 18, 2011. Speaking about the importance of private sector jobs, Mr. Scott made it clear that he would speak on behalf of our members on Capitol Hill.
To learn more about Congressman Scott, please visit his website.
Head of Department of Transportation Impressed by ASBC's Love the Bus Event
On February 22nd, NSTA participated in the American School Bus Council (ASBC)'s Love the Bus event in Takoma Park, MD. Tremendously successful, the event drew participation from school children and Federal Government officials alike. The message: school buses are the safest way to get to school, so show your bus drivers appreciation in honor of Valentine's Day!
Ray Lahood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, who attended and spoke at the event, said he especially enjoyed meeting school bus driver, Wellington Verona Abud, and speaking to the children who rode his bus, writing on his blog that, "...if you heard the affection [Mr. Wellington]'s young riders expressed for him, you would understand what an important role he plays, not just in keeping those riders safe, but in getting their school day off to a promising start." You can read Mr. LaHood's entire post, complete with pictures and video, by clicking here.
Additionaly, Mongomery County Public Schools has created an excellent video of the event which can be viewed here.