Activity Transportation and Flexibility of House Bill 300
By Matt Komac, MSGIA Assistant Director for Property & Liability Pool Operations and Kris Goss, MTSBA Director of Policy Services/Senior Counsel
What effect does the passing of HB 300 have on activity transportation?
A district may use a passenger vehicle to transport students to or from school-sponsored functions or activities. A district may NOT use a passenger vehicle for purposes of transporting students to or from school on a regular bus route. A “passenger vehicle” is defined as one that a) is designed to transport 8-15 passengers, b) is the size and style of the vehicle necessary to meet the needs of the district, and, c) is insured in accordance with the minimum coverage requirements established in 20-10-109.
Will MSGIA cover “passenger vehicles,” as defined in HB 300 to be used for activity transportation?
Yes. While a bus is the preferred and safest mode of transportation, MSGIA will cover owned or rented SUVs and vans that meet the definition of a “passenger vehicle” under HB 300. We understand that the recruitment and retention of CDL licensed drivers is currently a significant challenge for districts and thus the passage of HB 300 provides some flexibility to districts when scheduling transportation for school-related activities.
How does MSGIA’s Property & Liability MOC’s coverage apply to rented/leased vehicles?
If the vehicle is rented or leased by the district, then the auto liability coverage provided through MSGIA is going to be primary, unless you purchase liability insurance on the vehicle as part of the rental or lease agreement, which is always recommended. If required in the agreement, physical damage coverage is also provided for a rented/leased vehicle. This is the preferred method if you do not own an 8-15 passenger vehicle.
How does MSGIA’S Property & Liability MOC’s coverage apply to non-owned vehicles?
If a privately-owned, non-owned vehicle (think employee’s personal vehicle) is used with the consent of the district, then that vehicle’s auto liability coverage would be primary, and the district’s auto liability coverage would be excess. There is also NO physical damage coverage provided for a non-owned auto. For this reason, this option should be avoided if at all possible.
The following questions were addressed by Kris Goss, Director of Policy Services/Senior Counsel for MTSBA.
Are District’s required to provide transportation to activities?
Students have a right to participate in activities under the Montana Constitution. This means the District has an obligation to satisfy this right, which involves providing transportation services to and from an event or practice. If the District has established a practice wherein it has provided transportation to activities for students, it is obligated to continue to provide students transportation. Doing so, moreover, allows for full supervision of the students and confirmation of their presence at the event.
Can District’s require parents to transport students to activities?
The concern with parents transporting students to and from events and practice relates not only to liability but also to equity of access. If students do not have parents who can transport them to the event, they are potentially being excluded from participation in violation of their rights. That lack of equity/opportunity can be considered discriminatory and in violation of the law and district policy.
So, while the provision of activity transportation is not outlined in statute, a combined reading of case law and best practices means districts should provide it. Doing so is the most effective and efficient way to keep students safe, comply with the applicable laws, and provide them the opportunity to participate.
What to do if the district does not own a vehicle that meets the requirements outlined in HB300?
The district can also rent vehicles with a capacity of 8-15 people and have the coaches and/or employees drive the rentals. HB 300 does not require district ownership of the vehicles for activity purposes. Rather, the district is required to insure the vehicles if they are owned by a third party. As noted above, if the insurance carrier approves coverage for the vehicles, they may be used for transporting the students under the insurance policy, district policy, and state law. This option is available under MTSBA Model Policy 8121 and does not require drivers to have a CDL.
Though the standard guidance to districts involves not allowing employees and volunteers to use personal vehicle to transport students during an official school trip, if using a personal vehicle is the only option and thus unavoidable, then the district should have forms in place that address the following situations:
- Anyone driving students must complete a criminal background check.
- The form for the driver should be accompanied by the volunteer form, which states that they will honor district policy.
- The driver must provide a copy of their driver’s license along with proof of insurance to a level that satisfies the district’s insurance carrier.
- The form for the driver should state the district is not responsible for any tickets they are issued.
- The form should notify the vehicle owner that their auto liability coverage is primary, that the district’s coverage would be excess in the event of an accident, and that there is no physical damage coverage for their vehicle.
- The student form should be accompanied by the standard field trip permission form.
MTSBA and MSGIA can assist with any issues or questions that emerge as districts use 8-15 passenger vehicles for activities in accordance with the new law. Please contact us at any time.
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