To operate in Ontario, school bus companies must follow the laws and regulations that apply to the operation of commercial vehicles (trucks and buses), which includes, but is not limited to:
• The Highway Traffic Act
• Dangerous Goods Transportation Act
• Public Vehicles Act
• Motor Vehicle Transport Act
• Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act
• Environmental Protection Act
The legislation listed above deals with many aspects of school bus operation in Ontario, most of which the average motorist or passengers of the bus are not aware of their existence or purpose. We do however experience some of these requirements almost every day when we encounter a school bus on the road. For example the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) requires school buses to be equipped with warning systems (flashing overhead warning lamps) that indicate to other motorist that they must stop for the bus when is fully stopped and picking up or dropping off students on a roadway.
As well, the HTA requires school buses to stop at all railway crossings, whether or not the crossing is equipped with a warning system. This ensures that the bus only crosses the tracks when it is safe to do so.
Highway Traffic Act Regulations
School bus operators must comply with Regulation 612 of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA). School buses are compliant with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standard D250, a prescriptive manufacturing standard that school buses must be built and maintained to throughout their service life.
The safety equipment and features of a school bus are required to be maintained throughout the service life of the vehicle. For this reason, Regulation 199/07 sets out minimum performance standards that the operator’s vehicles are required to comply with on a day to day basis. This ensures the on-going safety of the vehicle.
To ensure that operators consistently maintain their vehicles to the prescribed performance standards the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) monitors school bus operators throughout the province. Facility audits, carrier safety ratings, inspections and spot checks are performed to ensure school bus companies operate with the highest integrity.
Regular Inspections by Technician
In addition to regular mechanical maintenance and daily vehicle inspections by the driver, a government licenced Motor Vehicle Inspection Station will perform at least two mechanical inspections each year on every school bus in Ontario.
Daily Driver Inspection
School bus drivers conduct daily safety inspections and must record and report all mechanical issues to maintenance personnel. At the start of each day, drivers must inspect their vehicle before it leaves the lot. They check instruments and gauges, perform routine tests, and confirm proper mirror adjustments. The inspection results are recorded in a vehicle logbook in accordance with provincial regulations. Post-trip inspections are performed to verify that every child has exited the bus at the appropriate stop.
School buses are subject to roadside safety inspections. Unlike other kinds of commercial vehicles, they typically take place at the intended destination rather than at the roadside. The inspections are unannounced and are routine checks. The results of the inspection are reported to the driver as well as the school bus company and can affect the operator’s CVOR.
Driver Hours of Service
The number of hours a school bus driver can drive and be on-duty in a day, and over a seven-day period, is monitored to ensure fatigue does not compromise the safety of passengers. The Record of Duty Status logbook makes it easy for drivers, their employers, and the MTO to track their hours and determine compliance.
During a facility audit, school bus operators are measured against their stated maintenance policies. Vehicle maintenance files are also inspected to ensure they are compliant with legislated standards, daily/annual vehicle inspection records are in order, and driver records and logbooks have been filled out properly.
Carrier Safety Rating
MTO determines a Carrier Safety Rating (CSR) for each school bus operator based on performance. Collisions, inspections, and convictions, as well as the results of facility audits influence the Safety Rating.
Every school bus company also requires a Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration (CVOR). Operators are responsible for monitoring their CVOR record and the performance information it provides, including violation rates, thresholds, audit scores and resulting Safety Ratings.
For further information: Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration