Schools Subject to Fines for Buying Non-Conforming Vans

RENO, Nev. (Aug. 2, 2005)-The school transportation industry achieved a long-time goal when President Bush signed the massive highway reauthorization bill a few days ago.

Tucked away in an obscure section of TEA-21 is language that prohibits a school or school system from purchasing or leasing large, non-conforming vans for purposes of transporting students.

The language states, "... a school or school system may not purchase or lease a new 15-passenger van if it will be used significantly by, or on behalf of, the school or school system to transport preprimary, primary, or secondary school students to or from school or an event related to school, unless the 15 passenger van complies with the motor vehicle standards prescribed for school buses and multifunction school activity buses under this title. This paragraph does not apply to the purchase or lease of a 15-passenger van under a contract executed before the date of enactment of this paragraph."

According to Robin Leeds, industry specialist for the National School Transportation Association, "What this means is that it is now illegal to buy a nonconforming van for student transportation as well as to sell one," she said. NSTA lobbied for the provision during the run-up to final passage of the bill by the House and Senate recently. "It puts the responsibility and liability on the purchaser as well as the seller, whereas until now only the seller was in violation of the law," said Leeds.

The law provides a maximum civil penalty for violation of the sales prohibition of $10,000 per vehicle for each sale, with a maximum of $15 million for a series of violations.

"NSTA believes that this sends an important message to schools and school districts that the use of nonconforming vans to transport students is dangerous and cannot be codoned by NHTSA or Congress. It's a victory not only for NSTA but for the entire industry and the students we transport," said Leeds.