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School Finance: Transportation

Pupil Transportation Guide: A Guide for Massachusetts School Administrators

August 1996


Transportation Policy


The purpose of a transportation policy will ensure that each school committee offering student transportation services complies with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts General Laws and Regulations of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Registry of Motor Vehicles pertinent to transportation of students, as well as govern any areas not covered by specific declaration of policy.


All children in grades kindergarten through six who reside more than two miles from the school they are entitled to attend and the nearest school bus stop is more than one mile from their residence and all children residing in regional school districts in grades kindergarten through twelve. Exceptions to this policy may be made when road conditions do not provide for the physical safety of the children and when the health of students make this service essential.

Riding Limits, Routes, and Bus Stops

Bus routes are established under the direction of the superintendent in cooperation with bus contractors so as an authorized bus stop is available within a reasonable walking distance of the home of every student entitled to transportation, and that distance does not exceed one mile.

Bus routes are structured so the total time a student spends on the bus is minimal.

Authorized bus stops are located at convenient intervals in places where students maybe loaded and unloaded, cross highways, and await arrival of buses with the utmost safety allowed by road conditions.

Administration of Program

The superintendent of schools is responsible for execution of transportation policy and regulations adopted to implement the policy.

Transportation contractors must submit a list of bus drivers and substitute drivers to the Superintendent of Schools for approval by the school committee.

Bus contractors are subject to all statutes of Massachusetts governing buses, drivers, inspections, and licensing.

Supervision of Riders

Bus drivers are responsible for the safety of children riding to and from school. Bus drivers have full authority over the bus and its passengers in route to and from school and during loading and unloading.

Requirements of Contents

A copy of the bus route should be placed in each bus prior to the beginning of school. Emergency numbers such as police, school, garage, hospital, etc., must be posted each bus. Drivers are expected to keep their buses clean at all times.

Recommended Bus Rules For Drivers


Any violations of the rules and regulations for student behavior on school buses must be reported at the end of each trip to the staff member in charge, who must obtain all pertinent information and report it to the school principal. The report should be forwarded to the school principal no later than the following day of the occurrence of the incident. The report will be returned to the staff member showing the action taken by the principal who in turn will show the bus driver what action has been taken.

Drivers must not remove any child from a bus as a disciplinary measure.

Bus drivers have no authority to appoint students as bus monitors and must not do so. If repeated misbehavior problems arise, the should report each incident to the designated authority.

Suspension of a student from riding the bus must be administered by the proper authority, usually the school principal.

School principals must administer punishment when rule infractions are reported. Reports must be prompt, and punishment should be administered as soon as possible after it has been reported. All punishments must be reported to parents and noted on the copy of the Bus Behavior Report, which is returned and shown to the bus driver.

Recommended Procedures for Accidents

In spite of all precautions, the possibility of accidents cannot be entirely eliminated. Drivers should be trained so, if any accidents do occur, they know how to meet the emergency. The following procedures are suggested to drivers:

  • Stop and turn off the ignition.
  • Keep calm and never lose your temper. Do not argue or try to place the blame for the accident.
  • Set out lanterns, flags, or flares at once. (Reflectors are acceptable)
  • Make students as safe and comfortable as possible, moving them to a safe and comfortable location if necessary.
  • Under no condition allow children to proceed home by begging rides or walking long distances.
  • If necessary, send a responsible student for the type of help needed.
  • Notify school officials and the state, county, or local police.
  • Get license number and other pertinent information about all vehicles involved.
  • Get the names and addresses of all persons involved in the accident and all witnesses.

Recommended Bus Rules For Students

Waiting for the Bus
  • Be on time for the bus but do not arrive at the stop earlier than 10 minutes before the time at which the bus usually arrives.
  • Observe all safety precautions while waiting for the bus:
    • Do not play in the roads
    • If possible, avoid crossing streets
    • Whenever you must cross a street, do so only if you are sure that no moving vehicles are approaching from either direction
    • Do not push, pull, or chase any other students
    • Avoid trespassing on private property and being noisy
  • As your bus approaches, line up at least six feet off the highway, and do not approach the bus until it has stopped and the driver has opened the door. Again, avoid pushing others in the line.
Loading the Bus
  • Get on your bus quickly and be seated at once (unless seats are not available).
  • If seats are not available, proceed toward the rear of the bus, remain standing in the middle aisle, and grasp a seat bar firmly before the bus begins to move.
  • Listen carefully and obey any directions issued by the driver.
Unloading the Bus
  • Do not leave your seat until the bus has come to a complete stop and the driver has opened the door.
  • Again, obey any directions issued by the driver.
  • Leave the bus quickly but in a courteous manner without pushing other students.
  • If you must cross a street as leave the school bus, be sure to walk in front of the bus (never in back) at a distance of at least 12 feet away from the bus. If you are too close to the front of the bus, the driver will not be able to see you, and a serious accident could occur.
  • Again, be sure to observe all safety precautions as you travel from your bus stop to your home.
  • Violation of the bus rules may result in loss of bus privileges.

School Transportation Program Evaluation

To ensure that your school transportation program is operating efficiently, it is recommended that an assessment and evaluation of the program is done on a regularly basis. The following is a minimum list of essential information which can be used in designing an evaluation guide.

  1. School Committee Policy

    The school committee has adopted specific policies regarding student transportation. All policies are in writing form and include but are not limited to the following:

    • The extent of the transportation services to be provided as stated by law and the conditions, if any, under which it will be provided to students who do not qualify.
    • An outline of procedures for the use of buses for extra curricular activities and by other groups permitted by law.
    • A description of rules of behavior for all bus drivers and students, including discipline procedures.
    • Operating rules for bus drivers.

  2. Safety Education

    • A program has been developed for teaching children to become safe bus passengers which includes:
      • Classroom instruction
      • Assembly programs
      • Demonstration and practice on the bus
      • Emergency evacuation drills
      • A training program has been established for members of the student safety patrol.

  3. Transportation Records

    A separate transportation accounting system is in place and maintained which includes the following:

    • Cost analysis for the operation of each bus on an annual basis.
    • Records which contain:
      • original cost and date of purchase
      • total mileage and miles operated per day on regular routes
      • number of students transported on regular routes
      • cost of gasoline, oil, tires, tubes, labor, parts and insurance (buses/garages)
      • rents paid
      • operating expenses of the bus garage (fuel, electricity, water, telephone, uniforms, etc.
      • dates worked and wages paid to drivers
      • administrative costs
    • Records are kept for instructional and other non-route trips such as number of miles per trip, cost of gasoline, oil, wages for drivers and other operating costs
    • .
    • A complete inventory of supplies and repair parts is made at least once year.
    • Specific information on all school bus accidents is maintained as detailed as possible.

  4. Bus Routes

    • An up to date map in a scale large enough to be functional is maintained, showing the following information:
      • Location of all roads
      • Type of roads (gravel, dirt, paved, etc.)
      • Location of schools
      • Location of students, indicating grade level
      • Route of each bus
      • Location of all railroad crossings
      • Location and nature of all other route hazards
    • Children are picked up and discharged only at designated stops.
    • Bus stops located only where there is adequate clear vision in each direction
    • A definite time schedule showing the time the bus can be expected at each bus stop has been established and is posted in each bus.
    • Traffic patterns for approaching, parking on and leaving school grounds are established.
    • Emergency routes are established to be used in case of road restrictions.
    • Riding time for the passengers does not exceed a reasonable amount of time.

  5. Procedures

    • There is a definite procedure for handling requests for the use of buses for instruction and activity trips.
    • Requests for these trips in writing.
    • There is a direct and easy method for drivers to report disciplinary problems.

  6. Parents and Students

    • Parents are informed of all policies pertaining to the transportation program.
    • A copy of the bus time schedule is sent home prior to the opening of school.
    • Rules and regulations for student conduct are specific and understandable; they are sent to the home of each child who is transported.

  7. Bus Driver

    • Rules and regulations regarding their duties and responsibilities are given to the drivers in written form as in a driver's handbook.
    • Qualifications - physical, mental and moral - have been established for bus drivers.
    • There is a definite program for training school bus drivers which includes both classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel practice.
    • Conferences and/or safety meetings for the drivers are held at regular intervals.
    • Substitute drivers meet the same requirements as regular drivers.

  8. Vehicles

    • All vehicles used for transporting students meet the minimum standards for construction of school buses as required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
    • Vehicles are purchased only after requesting bids.
    • A written set of specifications describing the equipment to be purchased is furnished to the bidders.
    • When possible, purchases of new buses are made in time to ensure delivery before the next school term begins.
    • Spare buses are available and can easily be assigned to a bus route in case of need.
    • The capacity rating of the spare buses are at least the equivalent of the largest buses used on the regular routes.

  9. Maintenance

    • School officials make all the necessary provisions for carrying out a preventative maintenance program.
    • The driver performs a pre-trip inspection of his bus and reports in writing any defects.
    • Each bus is inspected regularly by a mechanic for detecting mechanical defects, and immediate repairs are made when defects are found.
    • The buses are kept clean inside and out.
    • Maintenance records are maintained, showing maintenance and repair work done for each bus.

  10. Garage

    • Garage or other shelter is provided with heat if it is to be used for repair.
    • Washing facilities are available, so that buses can be kept clean.
    • The garage is equipped with a telephone.

  11. Contracts

    • Transportation contracts are in full compliance with all state and federal statutes.
    • Transportation contracts are awarded only after requesting bids in accordance with the law.
    • A written set of specifications describing all aspects of the transportation service to be provided is furnished to prospective bidders.
    • When possible, awarding of transportation contracts is made in time to assure delivery before the next school term begins.

  12. Possible Steps To Help Reduce Transportation Costs

    • Establishing different beginning and closing hours for elementary and high schools which would permit school buses to make multiple runs.
    • Using a larger capacity bus where there is a sufficient number of students without making the riding time excessive.
    • Make a careful analysis of all bus routes to reduce deadhead mileage.
    • Establishing a definite replacement program for the purchasing of new buses.
    • Trading in buses when maintenance and operating costs become excessive.
    • Providing for a preventative maintenance program for the buses. It is less costly to prevent failure of the vehicle or any of its parts than to make repairs after a breakdown has occurred.
    • Providing a formalized course of instruction for school bus drivers pertaining to proper operation of a school bus.
    • Installing gasoline storage tank and pump if the size of the fleet is large enough to warrant purchasing of gas in large quantities.

Last Updated: August 1, 1996
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