Updated on: 5/30/2019
Officials with the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) announced last week that it would be assessing more than $23,000 in fines against an Ohio-based school bus company.
According to The News Tribune, the UTC fined First Student Inc. $23,700 for a variety of safety-related violations. The UTC does is not permitted to regulate individual school bus routes or trips, but can exercise regulatory authority over school bus companies which are chartered for non-routine transportation, such as field trips, sporting events, and other related events.
Detailed records show that First Student Inc. was subject to a routine inspection earlier this year. UTC inspectors recorded the following:
- 99 violations relating to the company’s failure to require drivers to prepare vehicle inspection reports
- 44 additional violations involving drivers who were employed without having participated in a pre-employment drug screening.
In total, inspectors noted more than 150 violations of state and federal transportation safety laws on the part of First Student Inc.
Legal Implications Of School Bus Company’s Violations
Ultimately, the announcement about First Student Inc. could be taken as good or bad news. The good is that the UTC did its job in exercising its regulatory authority by inspecting the vehicles responsible for transporting innocent and vulnerable children.
The bad news is that this company is providing thousands of students with transportation each and every day. Investigators found hundreds of serious safety-related violations and issued a substantial fine against the company. And they only found the violations in the first place because they essentially found a loophole for being able to inspect the vehicles. The UTC would not have been able to inspect the vehicles in the first place if the company didn’t also provide
This means that a large number of school bus drivers were permitted to transport students on a regular basis without having passed a very important drug screening. No one can be sure about whether these school bus drivers were qualified to be responsible for the children’s safety due to the lack of proper screening.
Hopefully the bad optics of this debacle lead to improvements in safety guidelines and, more importantly, the UTC’s ability to act as a regulator over school buses in Washington state. Ensuring that drivers are in good standing and qualified for the job is an important first step in preventing school bus accidents.