Student Runs: Is Obeying All The Rules Worth It?

Jim Luff
Posted on April 14, 2017

Wikimedia Commons photo by Infrogmation; shot in Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans

Wikimedia Commons photo by Infrogmation; shot in Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans

Schools offer many opportunities to transport students to sporting events while providing vehicles for parent booster clubs, proms, formals, and graduations. Almost none of these activities will be paid by the school itself, but rather organizations and students. You must consider many factors. No matter who pays the bill, you have to abide by school rules.

Getting In The Door
You have probably received a call from a student selling advertisements for the school yearbook or the student newspaper. Maybe you bought the ad hoping to get some business out of it for prom, formals, or graduation. Save your money! Kids don’t care about your ad or have any loyalty to companies that buy a yearbook ad. The yearbook isn’t even distributed until the end of the school year. Don’t advertise for proms or formals either. The kids will be calling every company in town looking for availability and a deal. You don’t need to advertise to get them to call.

If you want to get noticed by a school and spend some money, become a sponsor. School sponsorships enable you to help out, which can earn earn you loyalty. From sponsoring a school play to sports teams, the tax dollars supporting extracurricular activities have shrunk to nearly nothing. As a result, school groups must sell everything from candy and popcorn to holding car washes.

What Are The Opportunities?
You may wonder what type of transportation a school needs. From traveling on field trips to out of town sports events, parents and students alike have to travel for many reasons. Schools commonly have parent booster clubs who will travel to “away” games to watch their kids play. They may want to travel in “adult style” with a cocktail in hand on the way to or from the game. It is not our job to judge them. It’s our job to get them there safely and back home while collecting their money. Remember those fundraisers mentioned above? Many offer the highest product sellers a lunch reward that includes limo transportation. The fundraising company pays for the trip. Having a relationship with the school makes you the shoo-in for the job as they won’t let their students jump in just any vehicle.

About Getting Paid
Schools use complex accounting systems. It is unlikely money would ever come from the school or district funds, although they will pay the bill using a warrant that works the same as a check. The actual funds used to pay you will come from a PTA (Parent Teacher Association) group or club that may be recognized as a non-profit organization. Some PTA groups have their own bank accounts and pay their own bills. Other times, organizations such as the football team may have their raised monies deposited into a separate bank account controlled by the school. In this case, you will have to submit an invoice and be prepared to wait as long as 60 days for payment. In other situations, such as parent booster clubs, the parents directly pay the funds. It could be individual payments or one person serving as the ringleader who collects the money from the participants; be wary of this. If the trip goes into overtime, the person who paid might deny responsibility for the overtime expense. Make sure your contract with an individual clearly defines his or her responsibility for payment of any additional charges. It’s up to that individual to collect from the others.

Special Licenses And Certifications
Most schools will require drivers to be certified to drive students. Many states refer to it as a SPAB certification. SPAB stands for School Pupil Activity Bus. The certificate is required to transport students to and from school-related events, such as field trips and grad night trips. Getting SPAB certified generally involves a certificate course, a written test, background check, fingerprinting, and medical exam to make sure the driver is safe to be around children. For purposes of transporting children, a van or a limousine is considered a “school pupil activity bus.”

Additionally, if a vehicle falls under DOT regulations, which is any vehicle with a passenger capacity exceeding eight people (including the driver) and operating “for-hire,” the vehicle must be certified to carry school children from kindergarten through high school. Vehicles are inspected annually and the permit showing the vehicle inspection date must be displayed in the vehicle. For more information about DOT regulations, visit the FMSCA website: (

Schools emphasize the safety of their students. Their transportation is managed by the director of transportation, whether in a school bus or a chartered limousine. Many school districts require any driver of school pupils to be SPAB certified even if the vehicle itself is not SPAB certified. Drivers should be prepared to have their credentials inspected before loading passengers.

Getting Drivers And Vehicles Certified
If you want to get into the business of transporting school aged passengers, the first step is to get your vehicles certified. This involves your state Highway Patrol or police certifying the vehicle. Ask to speak to the “school bus officer.” They will guide you in the steps you need to take for your local area, and may be able to refer you to school bus driver classes held by a local school district. Your drivers may be charged a fee to attend the class since they are not employed by the district, but will become fully certified through the class.

Schools are big on safety inspections. If you are planning to work a school event, your vehicle may be inspected upon arriving at a school facility. This could include your trunk being inspected upon arrival or departure from proms. Even if parents booked and paid for the trip via a contract, your vehicle is subject to inspection if you are dropping off or picking up at any official school function. If carrying children from the school udner arrangements made by the school, the inspection can also include a full pre-trip safety check of tires, lighting equipment, brake systems, emergency exit operations, and engine compartment. They are entrusted with the lives of the students and take the transportation of children seriously.

Defining School Facilities
There is a common misconception that an off-campus school event is considered to be on private property and expempt from school jurisdiction. The truth is any official student activity is considered school property, even if it’s not at school system property or facilities. For instance, if a prom is held at a private country club, the club is considered school property until the event ends. All rules, policies, and authority are in effect as if the event were held on campus. Don’t try to argue with school officials you are on private property. The law is in their favor.

Who To Market To
• School PTA
• School activities coordinator
• School transportation director
• School fundraising companies in your area (ask the school who they are)
• School clubs
• School athletic director
• Parent Booster Club president

Best Practices
• Make sure drivers working school jobs have credentials in hand during the trip.
• Make sure vehicle certificate is displayed and up to date.
• Make sure vehicle registration and insurance certificates are ready for inspection.
• Make sure all emergency exits and alarms are properly working.
• Complete a thorough pre-trip inspection before arriving at a school campus.
• Cooperate with school officials for all inspections.
• Follow all school rules and make students comply with school rules.
• Treat offsite school events the same as you would onsite events.
• Drivers should function as school chaperones and keep children safe at all times.

Related Topics: bus regulations, How To, passenger safety, proms, student transportation

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