Education Law

Hold the Phone!

 A new federal rule prohibiting commercial drivers from using a hand-held cell phone while operating a commercial truck or bus went into effect  on January 3, 2012.  For us educationally minded individuals, the next logical question becomes does this new ban on hand-held phone use also apply to school bus drivers?   The answer as it so often is: it depends.  It depends on the school bus driver’s employer.

 The new ban clearly does not apply to school district employed school bus drivers.  Although school buses meet the definition of a commercial motor vehicle ("CMV"), if the driver of the CMV is employed by a State or a political subdivision of a State, like a school district bus driver,  then Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ("FMCSA") safety regulations do not apply, even if the school district employed bus driver is engaged in interstate transportation.

The twist here is that many school districts are using private transportation companies, like Durham or First Student, to provide their transportation services.  As a result, for school districts using such private transportation services, the ban on hand-held phone use by bus drivers is in fact applicable.

However, while the FMCSA safety regulation may not apply to school district employed school bus drivers, school district bus drivers are still going to have to abide by state or local traffic laws (e.g., Maryland, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg all prohibit the use of hand-held phones) like everyone else. 

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