ROCKVILLE, Md. — The school board for Montgomery County is voicing opposition to a proposed state bill that would subject public school buses to certain federal inspection standards.
Senate Bill 44, sponsored by Sen. Ron Young, would require owners of school buses to keep the buses inspected, repaired, and maintained in compliance with 49 C.F.R. Part 396 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations. It would also prohibit the buses from being put into operation unless the bill’s requirements are met, and would let the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) suspend the registration of a school bus that does not meet the bill’s requirements.
The board of Montgomery County Public Schools is concerned that if the bill passes, school buses would be subjected to the entire regulatory section, Patricia Swanson, the legislative aide for the school board, told Bethesda Magazine. That could mean that the buses would have to pull over at highway weigh stations and be subject to roadside checks, according to the news source. Swanson also told the news source that state regulations for public school bus inspections are already stricter than the federal standards referenced in the proposed bill, but that she is open to working with Young on the proposal.
Young told Bethesda Magazine that the proposal would hold private and public school bus owners responsible for meeting the same federal standards, and that he does not want to complicate bus trips.
Meanwhile, in July, the MVA introduced a new school bus safety inspection system that uses handheld tablets instead of a manual paper-based process to boost efficiency. State inspectors use the tablets to inspect buses and report results electronically, and the system also creates a database that the MVA can use to track all bus inspections.