TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law four bills designed to raise safety standards for school buses and school bus operators in the state on Monday.
The legislation signed by Murphy makes the following requirements law:
• A-4339 requires school bus operations in the state to comply with parts of the Code of Federal Regulations covering areas including safety, noise emissions, insurance, and drug testing.
• A-4345 requires all permanent and substitute school bus drivers and aides to undergo safety education programs twice per calendar year. The programs are to cover several key areas, including student management and discipline, accident and emergency procedures, loading and unloading procedures, and emergency exit drills.
• S-2848 requires school bus drivers to submit proof of physical fitness in the form of a medical report by a certified medical examiner recognized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. It also requires bus drivers over age 70 to submit proof of physical fitness every year, and those over age 75 to submit proof every six months.
• S-2850 requires that when the Department of Education (DOE) notifies a board of education or a school bus contractor that a school bus driver has had their bus driver license suspended or revoked, the board of education or school bus contractor must verify to DOE that the driver in question no longer operates a bus for them.
As School Bus Fleet previously reported, state lawmakers initially considered a package of 10 school bus safety bills in July. Bills in this package that have not been signed by Murphy as of press time include ones that would require:
• All school buses to have a phone number or website displayed on the rear of the bus so motorists can report bus driver misconduct (S-1773.)
• Study of safety of school bus passengers in certain emergency situations (S-2754).
• School district transportation supervisor with less than 11 years of experience and all newly hired transportation directors to complete a certification program as a condition of employment (S-2755).
• Boards of education and contractors that provide school transportation services to employ school bus safety personnel (S-2851.)
In August, New Jersey signed into law legislation requiring lap-shoulder belts on all school buses, an upgrade from the previous law, which required only lap belts on all school buses.
The bills were spurred by the Paramus East Brook Middle School bus crash, which killed a teacher and a student on May 17. As previously reported, the bus driver involved in the crash, Hudy Muldrow Sr., 77, was apparently attempting to make a U-turn. He was charged with two counts of reckless vehicular homicide/death by auto.
“After the tragic school bus accident in Paramus earlier this year, it became clearer than ever that we must act to protect our children and educators through common sense school bus safety reforms,” Murphy said. “Thanks to our actions in partnership with the Legislature, parents will be able to send their children to school knowing that school buses and school bus drivers are being held to extremely high standards designed to ensure the safety of students.”
"After witnessing so many tragic accidents in recent years, it’s imperative that we advance meaningful improvements to school bus safety, including better training for drivers and aides," said Sen. James Holzapfel.