MINNEAPOLIS — On May 23, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed into law an omnibus transportation and transit policy bill that includes measures affecting school bus transportation.
The new law creates an Office of Pupil Transportation under the Department of Public Safety’s Division of State Patrol and requires the commissioner of public safety to designate a director of pupil transportation, who must be a state trooper. The law also creates positions for three additional troopers and 15 school vehicle inspectors.
The director’s duties will include working with a stakeholder group of school bus industry representatives in the development of school bus safety laws and policies, supervising preparation of the School Bus Inspection Manual and establishing best practices for private contracts.
The director will also conduct audits at school districts to ensure compliance with mandated employee background and license checks, including controlled substance and alcohol testing requirements.
According to the measure, the commissioner and director of pupil transportation safety will report to the state’s legislature the adequacy of funding, staffing levels, available technology and any recommended legislation by Jan. 15, 2009. Funds for the operation of the Office of Pupil Transportation will be appropriated from the trunk highway fund.
Sen. Rick Olseen, the bill’s chief author, became a school transportation safety advocate after a student in his district was killed in a Type III vehicle accident last spring. He was also the author of legislation passed in May that tightens licensing requirements for drivers of Type III vehicles at school districts.