State Laws

Tennessee Laws Relating to the Operation of School Buses

49-6-2101. Boards of education; powers and duties

(a) Boards of education may provide school transportation facilities for children who live more than one and one half (1 1/2) miles by the nearest accessible route from the school to which they are assigned by the board of education and in which they are enrolled.

(b) Boards of education may, in their discretion, provide school transportation facilities for children who lives less than one and one half (1 1/2) miles by the nearest accessible route from the school in which they are enrolled, but the county shall not be entitled to receive state transportation funds for any student, other than children with physical disabilities, who live less than one and one half (1 1/2) miles by the nearest accessible route from the school in which they are enrolled.

(c) Nothing in this part shall be construed to prevent a board of education from transporting children with physical disabilities, regardless of the distance they live from school, under rules and regulations adopted by the state board of education with the approval of the commissioner of education.

(d) Boards shall have power to purchase school transportation equipment, employ school transportation personnel, contract for transportation services with persons owning equipment, and pay for same out of funds duly authorized in the budget approved by the county legislative body.

(e) Appointed superintendents, in employing school transportation personnel, and boards of education, in contracting for transportation services with persons owning equipment, are hereby authorized to enter into contracts for such services for periods of time as long as, but not exceeding, four (4) years from the date of making such contracts, it being the purpose of this section to permit a reasonable degree of employment security for such school transportation personnel.

(f) (1) No board of education shall use or authorize the use of any school transportation facilities for the purpose of achieving a racial balance or racial imbalance in any school by requiring the transportation of any student or pupil from one (1) school to another or from one (1) school district established for such student or pupil’s neighborhood to another.

(f) (2) If the local board of education adopts any transportation plan or directive for the purpose of achieving racial balance, the governor may order that any or all parts of the state transportation funds shall be withheld from the local school board.

(f) (3) If the governor so orders, the commissioner and the state board of education shall withhold, or cause to be withheld, state transportation funds to local boards of education to the extent ordered by the governor.

49-6-2102. Rules and regulations

The state board of education is directed to formulate rules and regulations governing school transportation as needed to protect the lives and welfare of school children.

49-6-2103. Free transportation

No pupil shall be charged a fee by the county board of education or by any employee of such board for the privilege of being transported with public funds to any public school.

49-6-2104. Transportation not feasible; payment

(a) All pupils within a county shall be provided equal opportunity to attend school with any other pupil transported at public expense, except as conditions of roads or remoteness may prevent.

(b) In all cases where transportation cannot be furnished to a child because of the condition of roads or the remoteness of the home of the child, the local boards of education may, at their discretion, pay to the parents or guardian of such child an amount equal to the average per capita cost of transporting one (1) pupil, such calculation to be based upon the cost determined during the preceding school year.

(c) Before any child shall be eligible to receive any amount under this section, the following conditions must be met: Such child must maintain regular attendance in a public school; such child must live more than one and one-fourth (1 1/4) miles from the school which such child is required to attend under the provisions of this chapter; and it must be established to the satisfaction of the local school board that such child lives more than one and one-fourth (1 1/4) miles from the nearest daily route of a school bus.

49-6-2105. Transportation time

No pupil shall be allowed to remain in transit to or from school on a school bus more than one and one-half (1 1/2) hours in the morning or one and one-half (1 1/2) hours in the afternoon.

49-6-2106. Routes; approval

School bus routes shall be subject to the approval of the commissioner of education in order that the most efficient and economical services may be rendered. This section only applies where specific request for such approval is made by the board of education where the school bus routes are located.

49-6-2107. Bus drivers and equipment; certificates and certification

(a) No person shall be authorized to drive a school bus in this state unless such person possesses a certificate issued by the county board of education.

(b) The county board of education is authorized to adopt rules and regulations prescribing the qualifications of school bus drivers in the interest of the safety and health of school pupils.

(c) No person shall be issued such a certificate until an investigation has been made to determine whether or not such person has been found guilty of any criminal offense and such criminal records made a part of the person’s permanent file.

(d) In the event it should develop that school bus drivers and school bus equipment cannot be obtained in conformity with all the provisions of this part, the state board of education shall be authorized to issue temporary certificates to school bus drivers and to permit the use of equipment on a temporary basis which does not meet the requirements of this part, to the end that school transportation may be provided to all the children of Tennessee at all times and through any emergency that might develop.

49-6-2108. Bus drivers; physical examinations

(a) The state board of education shall require annual physical and mental examinations of school bus drivers and require reports to be made on forms prescribed by the board.

(b) It is the duty of the state board to revoke the certificate of any school bus driver found to be physically, mentally or morally unfit to operate a school bus, or who has been guilty of operating a school bus while under the influence of intoxicating beverages.

49-6-2109. Safety; equipment; inspection

(a) Pupils shall be transported in safe equipment constructed of steel or materials providing similar safety, as determined by the state board of education, and other safety features shall be included according to specifications for school buses as adopted from time to time by the board.

(b) The board shall permit the use of conventional school buses for a period of twelve (12) years of service. The commissioner of education may grant waivers for an additional three (3) years on a year-to-year basis. The owner of the bus may apply for a waiver after twelve (12) years of service on a year-to-year basis upon the following conditions: 1. Any bus with over twelve (12) years of use, but not more than fifteen (15) years of use, shall be inspected by the commissioner’s designee at least twice annually.

2. At such inspections, the inspector shall have the authority to require repairs or reconditioning to be made which the inspector considers necessary for the continued safe use and operation of the bus. If the local authority or owner refuses to take the required action or if the inspector considers continued use of the bus to be unsafe, the inspector shall order its removal from service. In addition to any other repairs, replacements or reconditioning required by the inspector, the steering, braking and exhaust systems of all conventional buses with over twelve (12) years of service shall be thoroughly reconditioned or replaced, as necessary, prior to any continued use.

(c)(1) School buses shall be of uniform approved color with the necessary marking easily to identify them in accordance with requirements of the state board of education. This requirement does not apply to a van type vehicle used only to transport students to and from school-related activities.

(c)(2) No other motor carrier, for hire or otherwise, shall bear the same color or markings as designated by the state board of education for school buses.

(c)(3) A violation of this subsection is a Class A misdemeanor.

(d) The commissioner is directed to have made not less than one (1) inspection annually of each school bus which transports school children, in order to determine whether it can be used safely to protect properly the lives of school children.

(e) Nothing in this title shall prohibit a local school district from allotting space on the exterior or interior of a school bus for the purpose of commercial advertising. After consultation with the department of safety, the state board of education is directed to promulgate rules and regulations to effectuate the provisions of this subsection. Commercial advertising shall be permitted only on the rear quarter panels of the school bus of a size not to exceed sixteen inches (16”) in height and sixty (60”) in length, be composed of black lettering on a white background, and shall not advertise alcohol or tobacco products. Commercial advertising permitted by this subsection shall not include campaign advertising as prohibited in 2-19-144, and any such campaign advertising shall be expressly prohibited.

49-6-2110. Safety; operation

(a) A school bus shall at no time transport more pupils than the manufacturer’s rated capacity for such bus, allowing not less than thirteen linear inches (13”) of seat space for each pupil. The commissioner of education may, under rules and regulations prepared by the commissioner and approved by the state board of education, issue permits to a local board of education allowing the number of pupils transported on a school bus to exceed the limit herein prescribed up to, but not to exceed, twenty percent (20%) of the manufacturer’s rated capacity. In no event shall a permit be issued authorizing the loading of a school bus beyond the limits of safety.

(b) A school bus transporting pupils to and from school, or on school-sponsored activity trips, shall not exceed posted speed limits or a maximum speed of thirty-five miles per hour (35 m.p.h.) on unpaved roadways.

49-6-2111. Insurance

No school bus shall be operated to transport pupils to and from school unless the school bus is insured for liability and property damage according to rules and regulations of the state board of education.

49-6-2112. Tax exemptions

(a) No privilege tax shall be collected from any school bus operator or from any board of education for operating a vehicle to transport children to and from school, unless such vehicle should be used for profit in transporting other than school pupils.

(b) No owner or operator of a school bus used to transport children to or from school shall be liable for any privilege tax, other than registration fees for such bus, for transporting school children to or from any activity, during the normal school term, sponsored by or participated in by any public school or its students.

49-6-2113. Crimes and offenses

A willful violation of this part is a Class C misdemeanor.

49-6-2114. Children with disabilities transportation act

(a) This section may be cited as the “Tennessee Children with Disabilities Transportation Act of 1991.”

(b) (1)School districts and other entities entitled by the laws of this state to receive school aid for educational and related services provided by them for children with disabilities shall not be entitled to receive such aid under 49-10-113, unless a person, in addition to the driver of any motor vehicle or bus utilized for the transportation of the children with disabilities, is designated to check each vehicle or bus at the central bus depot or bus facility or parking area each time the vehicle or bus returns from transporting the children to their respective destinations, to ensure that all children have left the vehicle or bus.

(b) (2)Bus drivers who do not return to a central depot, including drivers, shall have as a part of their employment contract a provision stipulating that all buses will be checked at the end of every run to make sure that no person remains on the bus. The contracting party shall be responsible for supplying the name, address and telephone number of the checker to the local board of education.

(c) The name, address and telephone number of the persons designated to check the bus shall be supplied to the local education agency on or before August 1 each year. If the designated persons are changed during the interim period between the annual report, then the name, address and telephone number of the new designee must be submitted during the interim and within ten (10) days of the change in designation.

49-6-2115. Safety standards

Notwithstanding any rule of the state board of education to the contrary all school buses purchased by a local education agency or private contractor to transport school students shall meet national minimum school bus standards and all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards. A van type vehicle used only to transport students to and from school-related activities is not required to comply with the requirements of 23 C.F.R. 1204.4, Guide 17 at Section IV (B)(1)(b) concerning color specifications.

Pub. Ch. 562

H.B. No. 401


AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 21, relative to school vans. BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-6-2115, is amended by deleting the second sentence thereof and substituting the following: A van type vehicle used only to transport students to and from school-related activities is not required to comply with 23 C.F.R. 1204-4 Guide 17 or any other federal standards, guidelines, or recommendations, but shall comply with applicable rules and regulations promulgated by the State Board of Education.

SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6. Part 21, is amended by adding the following as a new section:

Section___. Any local education agency may transport not more than fifteen (15) students to and from an interscholastic athletic or other interscholastic or school sponsored activity in a motor vehicle designed for the transportation of not less than seven (7) nor more than sixteen (16) persons, commonly referred to as a van, provided that the van is operated by or for the agency under a rental or for hire arrangement entered into by the agency with respect to the specific activity in connection with which such transportation is to be furnished. Any local education agency furnishing transportation for students under the authority of this section shall insure against any loss or liability of the agency resulting from the maintenance, operation, or use of such vehicle, and shall comply with applicable rules and regulations promulgated by the State Board of Education.

SECTION 3. Nothing in this act shall be construed as affecting or altering the provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 55, Chapter 50, Part 4, relative to commercial driver licenses or the circumstances under which a commercial driver license is required.

SECTION 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.