Regulations

FYI: What Is A Bus And Who Says?

Posted on October 5, 2011

Page 1 of 2

By Jim A. Luff, LCT contributing editor

Operators around the country have engaged in legal battles with transportation regulatory agencies in the legal definition of a bus and more importantly, which agency has oversight and control of buses. The biggest problem seems to be defining what a bus is.

The criteria used to define a bus varies from state to state and even within the federal government. The U.S. Department of Labor defines a bus as a motor vehicle with motive power, except a trailer, designed for carrying more than 10 persons.
The criteria used to define a bus varies from state to state and even within the federal government. The U.S. Department of Labor defines a bus as a motor vehicle with motive power, except a trailer, designed for carrying more than 10 persons.

The debate has raged on in courtrooms for more than a decade. In 2000, Alex’s Transportation, Inc. took its case to the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals. The 10th Circuit Court Judge, Paul J. Kelly, Jr. ultimately sided with a Federal District Court that previously ruled the Colorado State Public Utilities Commission had authority to license the plaintiff.  The plaintiff asserted Colorado had no jurisdiction over licensing based on the definition of a bus by federal law.

Federal Law — 49 U.S.C. § 14501
This law specifically preempts states from enacting laws or regulations related to “intrastate charter bus transportation.” In the Appeal, the following issues were considered:

  1. Limitation on State law. No state or political subdivision thereof and no interstate agency or other political agency of two or more states shall enact or enforce any law, rule, regulation, standard, or other provision having the force and effect of law relating to ¬(C) the authority to provide intrastate or interstate charter bus transportation.
  2. Matters not covered. Paragraph (1) shall not restrict the safety regulatory authority of a state with respect to motor vehicles, the authority of a state to impose highway route controls or limitations based on the size or weight of the motor vehicle, or the authority of a state to regulate carriers with regard to minimum amounts of financial responsibility relating to insurance requirements and self-insurance authorization.

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