Established public carriers—trains, buses, and commercial airlines—are the safest and most comfortable way for groups to travel. Chartered buses usually are the most economical transportation for groups of 20 or more. It may be necessary for small groups to travel in private automobiles; however, the use of chartered equipment from established rail, bus, and airline companies is strongly recommended. The advantages are many. These companies have excellent safety records because of their periodic inspections and approved health and safety procedures.
References: Cub Scout Leader Book, Scoutmaster Handbook, Troop Committee Guidebook, and Exploring Reference Book
It is essential that adequate, safe, and responsible transportation be used for all Scouting activities. Because most accidents occur within a short distance from home, safety precautions are necessary, even on short trips.
General guidelines are as follows:
- Seat belts are required for all occupants.
- All drivers must have a valid driver’s license that has not been suspended or revoked for any reason. If the vehicle to be used is designed to carry more than 15 people, including the driver (more than 10 people, including the driver, in California), the driver must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
- The driver must be currently licensed and at least 18 years of age. Youth member exception: When traveling to and from an area, regional, or national Boy Scout activity or any Venturing event under the leadership of an adult (at least 21 years of age) tour leader, a youth member at least 16 years of age may be a driver, subject to the following conditions:
- Six months’ driving experience as a licensed driver (time on a learner’s permit or equivalent is not to be counted)
- No record of accidents or moving violations
- Parental permission granted to the leader, driver, and riders
- Trucks may not be used for transporting passengers except in the cab.
- All vehicles must be covered by automobile liability insurance with limits that meet or exceed requirements of the state in which the vehicle is licensed. It is recommended that coverage limits are at least $50,000/$100,000/$50,000. Any vehicle designed to carry 10 or more passengers is required to have limits of $100,000/$500,000/$100,000.
- Obey all laws, including the speed limit.
- Driving time is limited to a maximum of 10 hours and must be interrupted by frequent rest, food, and recreation stops. If there is only one driver, the driving time should be reduced and stops should be made more frequently.
- Travel and rest time is limited to a maximum of 10 hours in one 24-hour period, regardless of the number of drivers available. The intention is to include sleep and thorough rest breaks while traveling long distances.
- Drivers should refrain from using cell phones (including hands-free units) and text-messaging devices while driving. Don’t drive drowsy. Stop for rest and stretch breaks as needed. Fatigue is a major cause of highway accident fatalities.
Campers, Trailers, and Trucks
Trucks are designed and constructed to transport materials and equipment, not people. Under no circumstances are passengers to be carried in the bed of or towed behind a pickup truck. Trailers must never be used for carrying passengers. Tour plans will not be issued for any trip that involves carrying passengers in a truck except in the cab. This includes vehicles converted for that use unless they are licensed as buses and meet all requirements for buses. Use caution in towing trailers or campers, as a vehicle’s performance, steering, and braking abilities will be altered.
Consider these safety tips:
- Get the correct trailer for the vehicle and the correct hitch for the trailer. Distribute and anchor the load.
- Allow extra time to brake. Changing lanes while braking can jackknife the trailer.
- Add safety equipment as dictated by common sense and state laws (mirrors, lights, safety chains, brakes for heavy trailers, etc.).
- Park in designated areas.
A driver of a bus or any vehicle designed to carry more than 15 people (including driver; more than 10 people, including the driver, in California) is required to have a commercial driver’s license. A person shall not drive a commercial motor vehicle unless he/she is qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle. Possession of a license, however, does not mean that a person is capable of driving a bus safely. It is essential that unit leaders and volunteers be thoroughly familiar with the bus or vehicle they will be driving, including knowing the location of emergency exits and fire extinguishers and how to operate them. A driver must be prepared to handle and brake a full bus, which weighs significantly more than an empty bus. Other safety tips are:
- Regular and thorough maintenance program
- No more passengers than there are seating locations
- Luggage and equipment fastened securely to prevent being thrown around in case of sudden stop
- Emergency exits clear of people or things
- Pretrip inspection of critical systems (signals, fuel, tires, windshield wipers, horn, etc.)
The safety rules for automobiles apply to bus travel, with the exception of seat belts. In special cases, chartered buses may travel more than nine hours a day. On certain occasions, night travel by public carrier bus is appropriate—it should be considered permissible when conditions are such that rest and sleep for passengers are possible with a reasonable degree of comfort. However, night travel on buses should not be planned for two successive nights.
Commercial Driver’s License Compliance
Most Scouting drivers fall into a category of nonbusiness PMCPs. Nonbusiness private motor carrier of passengers (PMCPs) provide private, interstate transportation that is not in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise. However, nonbusiness PMCPs are required to have a current commercial motor vehicle driver’s license.
A private motor carrier of passengers does not offer transportation services for hire, but (a) transports passengers in interstate (some state regulations apply to intrastate) commerce; and (b) uses a vehicle designed to carry more than 15 passengers, which includes the driver, or a vehicle that has a gross vehicular weight greater than 10,000 pounds.
Two such examples that would be considered a PMCP are:
- Scouting units that use vehicles designed to carry more than 15 passengers, such as buses. The driver, in this case, is often a volunteer driver of a “Scout bus” that is owned or leased. This category is referred to as nonbusiness private motor carrier of passengers and is probably the most frequent Scouting usage subject to the requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
- Councils that operate camps and include transportation fees in their program are subject to the rule when using buses or other vehicles designed to carry more than 15 passengers or that have a gross vehicular weight of more than 10,000 pounds.
All vehicle operators who are required to have a commercial driver’s license are subject to drug and alcohol testing. There are no exemptions within the nonbusiness private motor carrier of passengers category, which includes Scouting volunteer drivers. Local councils should establish guidelines for volunteer drivers based on the requirements of the state where they are located.
The U.S. Department of Transportation number is required if you are an interstate PMCP, regardless of business or nonbusiness state. To obtain a USDOT number, complete the form found at www.safer.fmcsa.dot.gov.
For-Hire Motor Carriers of Passengers (Charter Buses)
There are licensing and insurance requirements for for-hire motor carrier of passengers operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. These requirements are outlined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The insurance guidelines established a minimum level of financial responsibility. For vehicles designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), $5 million of insurance is required. For vehicles designed or used to transport nine to 15 passengers (including the driver), $1.5 million of insurance is required.
The FMCSA provides information about carriers online. The system is called SAFER and is part of the Motor Carrier Analysis and Information Resources. SAFER combines current and historical carrier-based safety performance information to measure the relative (peer-to-peer) safety fitness of interstate commercial motor carriers and intrastate commercial motor carriers that transport hazardous materials. This information includes federal and state data on crashes, roadside inspections, on-site compliance review results, and enforcement history. To check the records of a for-hire motor carrier of passengers, go to: www.safersys.org/companysnapshot.aspx.