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Author Topic: What are the laws regarding seat belts in bus conversions/RVs?  (Read 3158 times)
belfert
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« on: February 10, 2008, 05:35:16 PM »

Are bus conversions/RVs legally required to have seat belts for passenger seats?  I still have the dividers that seperated the passengers from the driver in my bus as I don't have a traditional passenger seat like most motorhomes and conversions.

The reason for my question is due to my work with a Boy Scout troop.  I was planning to take up to 10 boys plus an other adult in my bus to summer camp this summer,  but I realized the Boy Scouts require seat belts be used.  They do not require seat belts in tour buses, but I have no idea where an RV sits in the eyes of the BSA.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
Sean
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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2008, 05:53:02 PM »

The law varies by state.  You will need to check the laws in the state(s) you intend to drive through.

Bear in mind that you will also need a CDL with a passenger endorsement to drive the Boy Scouts around in many states -- the actual number of passengers that will trip that provision also varies by state.  And, in some states, you will need extra certification if the passengers are minors.  This applies even if the vehicle is a privately registered automobile.

Remember that, in any state, you no longer have a bus (unless you registered it as a bus, pay commercial plates, and have a CDL-B/P), you have a "motor home," "house car," or, in some cases, a "non-commercial passenger van", and the exemption that commercial buses generally enjoy regarding unbelted passengers does not apply to you.

Most states require all seating positions to have belts, whether or not the law also mandates that they be used.  There are exceptions for vehicles built prior to a certain year if the vehicle was not originally built with belts.

The bottom line is that the laws are very complex, and, as I said, you will need to look them up, notwithstanding a bunch of advice to the contrary that you will no doubt receive.

Since we built our coach to be used in all 49 continental states, we went with the "lowest common denominator" -- we put belts in for eight people, which is the limit for non-CDL drivers in some states.

Lastly, before you go carting the Boy Scouts around, you might want to check with your insurance carrier to see if that is a covered use.  One injury while you're at the wheel (or if you are the owner of the bus) can easily bankrupt you if they deny any claim.

-Sean
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jackhartjr
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« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2008, 07:39:31 PM »

Brian, I will not tackle the seat belt issue, however I know about the Federal DOT regulation concerning transporting passengers.
Here it is.
If you transport 16 people including the driver you have to have a CDL for the type vehicle you drive, with a passenger endorsement, have a complete DOT Driver Qualification file which includes the DOT Physical, and a Pre-Employment drug test, plus be in a random selection program for drug/alcohol testing.
If it is 15 passengers including the driver...NOT FOR HIRE, (In other words you are not being compensated) you don't have to have anything.
If you are transporting 8 passengers plus the driver (But no more than 15 passengers including the driver)...FOR COMPENSATION...AND you are traveling more than 75 air mile radius, you have to have a DOT Driver Qualification file.

The Driver Qualification file is this;
Completed Driver Application For Employment,
Reference checks for previous three years employment,
DOT Physical,
Current Motor Vehicle Record, (Within a year.)
After one year, a Certification of Violations Form,
After a year, An Annual Review of Driving Record Form,

Also for the CDL driver;
Drug/Alcohol Inquiries for previous three years employment.

Hope that helps.
Jack
PS...the advise about checking with your insurance agent to make sure you are covered is a GREAT one!
In fact the large coaches have to have $5Million coverage!
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« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2008, 09:18:54 PM »

Brian, I will not tackle the seat belt issue, however I know about the Federal DOT regulation concerning transporting passengers....


The Federal regulations may or may not be relevant.  Federal CDL requirements only come into play when the enterprise is a commercial one and it crosses state lines.

The states alone get to decide what the requirements are for anything that (a) happens strictly within their own state boundaries, including commerce and (b) anything at all when it is not of a commercial nature.  The federal government's sole interest, as dictated by the constitution, has to do with interstate commerce.

That being said, the feds do have an interesting end-run around the constitution, which they use, for example, to enforce nationwide vehicle safety standards (so that, for example, Maine can't decide unilaterally that turn signals have to be pink, while Virginia says they have to be green).  That mechanism involves the threat of withholding federal highway funding.  So if your state fails to adopt, for example, FMVSS 108 into law, your highway funding will be cut.  This is how the feds managed to force compliance with a nationwide 55mph speed limit in the 70's.

Some states have chosen, as a matter of convenience, to adopt the same standards for intrastate commerce as those that are in force for interstate commerce.  But, in most states, volunteering to drive Boy Scouts around does not fall under those regulations, right up until it is either done for financial remuneration, or a threshold of some kind is exceeded such as number of people in the vehicle, or number or trips per year.

The instant you cross state lines, the matter once again is one of federal interest.  The feds have uniformly interpreted the act of transporting passengers unrelated to the driver to be, de facto, interstate commerce whether any money changes hands or not, so long as it involves more than eight passengers.  This is why, for example, if you are going to take your church group on an interstate outing in their MC-5, you need to have a class B CDL with a passenger endorsement, even if the church owns the bus and you are driving strictly as a volunteer.  Many drivers (and churches) apparently do not know this, and you occasionally hear about an improperly licensed driver getting in trouble, usually after an accident.

Again, I encourage you to check on the laws in your state.  This is a complex matter, and, frankly, I would not undertake it without legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in the state(s) in question.  And no way would I ever, under any circumstances (legal or not), drive a vehicle with an unbuckled minor on board -- the liability is just too great.  So my personal advice is to install proper restraints for every passenger, no matter what else you find out.  FWIW.

-Sean
http://OurOdyssey.BlogSpot.com
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Tony LEE
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2008, 10:31:47 PM »

"And no way would I ever, under any circumstances (legal or not), drive a vehicle with an unbuckled minor on board "

Law or no law, I think this pretty much covers it.
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« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2008, 10:37:16 PM »

keep in mind restraints must be designed and tested for particular vehicles and seats.

installing your own restraints is a quicker way to the poor house via court house than operating a vehicle that was never equiped with such restraints.
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belfert
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« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2008, 06:35:04 AM »

This would not be a for hire situation so I am 99% sure no CDL would be required as there are not more than 15 passengers.  I would certainly not try to add seatbelts.

I think I'll just forget about this idea even though I still have bus seats and the traveling arrangements are no different than if the bus was still a passenger bus.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2008, 06:46:32 AM »

I have been a Scout leader longer than the 8 years I have owned my bus. While it has been very temping to use the bus for scouting purposes, I have limited it's use to carrying my own sons or gear only (and then only rarely). Assuming BSA regs are the same nationwide, carting the kids to summer camp is going to require that a Tour Permit be completed. On the Tour Permit application you must fill out driver and vehicle info, and it asks "Will every passenger have a seatbelt?"   Unless somebody at Council is asleep at the switch, I'm betting you never get the tour permit approved if you answer "no" to the seatbelt question. If you hire a commercial tour bus, it will be viewed differently, but a privately owned conversion is going to do more than raise a few eyebrows.  
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« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2008, 01:49:33 PM »

Our plan is to have a miminum of lap belts and possibly the full house 5 point harness for all of the delegated/designated forward facing seats.  Besides being safer, the harness setup would be a conservation subject and stuff.  Proper seats and mounting techniques will also be required.

Having said this, I do not think (for right now) there are any laws in Oregon requiring passenger seating restraints in a motor coach.  However, common sense would suggest that we need a way to prevent things and people from becoming flying objects when bad things happen.  Smiley Smiley Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2008, 01:52:05 PM »

This would not be a for hire situation so I am 99% sure no CDL would be required as there are not more than 15 passengers.  I would certainly not try to add seatbelts.

I think I'll just forget about this idea even though I still have bus seats and the traveling arrangements are no different than if the bus was still a passenger bus.

Brian you are missing two major componets that it would have if it were still a passenger bus! (1) The US DOT CDL qualified experienced (verified) driver! & (2) the federally required minimum of 5 million $ insurance (which in my personal opinion) is the one thing you should be most concerned with when carring minors.  FWIW
Grin  BK  Grin

PS I am by any means or way indicating that (A) your not an experienced or (B) qualified or (C) safe driver of your bus for personal use. But the minute you put SOMEONE elses MINOR child in your bus, things change drasticaly in the eyes of JUROR$!
Grin  BK  Grin
« Last Edit: February 11, 2008, 01:58:56 PM by Busted Knuckle » Logged

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belfert
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« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2008, 03:36:00 PM »

This would not be a for hire situation so I am 99% sure no CDL would be required as there are not more than 15 passengers.  I would certainly not try to add seatbelts.

I think I'll just forget about this idea even though I still have bus seats and the traveling arrangements are no different than if the bus was still a passenger bus.

Brian you are missing two major componets that it would have if it were still a passenger bus! (1) The US DOT CDL qualified experienced (verified) driver! & (2) the federally required minimum of 5 million $ insurance (which in my personal opinion) is the one thing you should be most concerned with when carring minors.  FWIW
Grin  BK  Grin

I was strictly talking about seating arrangements, not the rest of the stuff a real charter bus has, but I think you knew that.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
belfert
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« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2008, 03:42:51 PM »

Our local Boy Scout council quit requiring tour permits if the trip is within council boundaries or to a council camp.  The two local councils merged in 2005 and we rarely have to file tour permits any more due to the large size of the council now.  This particular trip would not require a tour permit.

I was thinking this might be a bad idea before I posted it, but now I can see for sure it would a bad idea.  I know the boys would enjoy the five hour trip a lot more in the bus because the bus has more seat room than a typical vehicle, but they'll just have to put up with a regular car.

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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2008, 03:57:32 PM »

Brian,

Check with the local council on there insurance.

My experience has been that they have large umbrella policys for Leaders under these circumstances.

I would see if they also cover liability relating to transportation associated with these outings.

Cliff
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« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2008, 05:05:37 PM »

Cliff is right. TALK to your local district & find out what the REAL rules are.

It's great you want to help with scouting.  Grin  Grin  Grin

My understanding is that if I'm driving scouts for a scout function, the BSA insurance, not mine, covers all the scouts.  Grin

Think about it, it only makes sense that way. Otherwise, the only trips would be ones you could walk to.

Another thing, you could get waivers for the parents to sign.

Personally, if I was that worried about liability, I wouldn't leave the house.  Shocked

Volunteer for scouts & set a good example for the boys & girls. Lord knows they need REAL HEROS! They already have enough zeros.
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« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2008, 05:40:16 PM »

Not trying to stir it up any more than it is...however...I would check to see if the BSA insurance is the Primary or secondary.  Probably the secondary, witch means it pays after yours stops...in other words if you hit the limits of your liablity, then the BSA takes over.  I suspect that is the case.
And like Kyle said, anyone involved in Boy Scouts...my hats of to them!
Jack
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