WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new bill in Congress would prevent the U.S. secretary of transportation from unilaterally raising insurance minimums on the school transportation and motorcoach industries.
The bill would leave regulatory authority on minimum insurance for passenger carriers with Congress, which has historically set those limits.
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania introduced the legislation, H.R. 2077, which is supported by the National School Transportation Association (NSTA).
The bill would also require the Department of Transportation to conduct a comprehensive study on passenger carrier insurance rates. That study would include consultation with the school transportation industry and passenger insurance carriers.
Currently, school bus contractors are federally required to have $1.5 million in insurance on each vehicle with 15 passengers or fewer and $5 million on each vehicle with more than 15 passengers for trips other than home-to-school service.
In November, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (which is within the Department of Transportation) gave notice of a proposed rulemaking that explores an increase in insurance requirements for passenger motor carriers. The agency has reportedly suggested that the minimums should be raised to upwards of $25 million for large vehicles.
NSTA President Tim Flood said that Perry’s bill “would halt the pending ill-advised rulemaking proceeding by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to increase minimum financial responsibility requirements on private school bus operators without any analysis indicating current rates are inadequate."
According to NSTA, one of the key distinctions made in H.R. 2077 is that the federal insurance minimums of trucks and school buses should be handled differently.
“While school buses and trucks may seem similar due to their size, there are several very fundamental differences between the two, and this bill recognizes those differences,” NSTA Executive Director Ronna Weber said.
“The motorcoach and school transportation industries have an exceptionally high safety record," Perry added. “If we unnecessarily raise minimum insurance rates, we'll only force out of business companies with an extremely safe track record; this is not the proper role of the federal government. We shouldn't look to penalize companies that work hard and play by the rules.”