Bus Accidents: Federal Laws

Last updated on: August 20, 2015


A bus, like a car, is subject to rules of the road that govern who and how it may be operated. Unlike most individual drivers who operate passenger cars to take them to and from work and on other excursions, buses, their drivers, and their employers must comply with a number of both state and federal laws. State laws are, of course, of limited applicability in that they generally will not apply to bus companies who neither travel in nor have a corporate presence in a particular state. Federal laws, however, are applicable to any bus driver and any bus company that operates interstate (that is, travels from one state to another or is headquartered in one state but does business in another).

Common Federal Laws Regulating Bus Operations

The federal laws governing who may operate a bus and how the bus is to be operated are contained in various rules and regulations promulgated by several agencies under the U.S. Department of Transportation. Some of the more commonly encountered rules and regulations include those pertaining to:

  • Who can operate a bus: The federal rules require a properly-licensed individual who is authorized to drive commercial motor vehicles to drive a bus. In most cases, the driver’s employer must maintain a file on each driver they employ, which includes the driver’s employment application; prior employment information; driving record and review records; the driver’s certification of violations and annual review; road test certificate; medical examiner’s certificate; and any waivers for physical disqualifications.
  • When the bus can be operated: Federal rules also govern how long a driver can operate a bus before he or she needs to rest and be “off-duty.” These rules govern not only the maximum amount of driving time that a driver can complete in a given day but also in a given week. Drivers are expected to maintain records indicating when they go “on-duty,” when they go “off-duty,” and when they are “on-duty,” but not driving.
  • Maintenance of the bus: Federal rules also exist that govern the safety and maintenance of buses. In general, buses and all of their attendant parts must be maintained in a reasonably safe and working order. Not only must all necessary repairs be timely completed and defective or worn parts replaced, bus carrier companies must also generally keep information and repair records available and accessible for review by others.
  • Maintenance of insurance: Finally, federal rules prescribe the amount of insurance a motor carrier must have if the bus travels between states. If the particular company uses buses that carry 16 or more people (including the driver), then the carrier must maintain an insurance policy that provides for at least $5 million in coverage. If the company uses buses that carry 15 or fewer people (including the driver), then the carrier is only required to carry a $1.5 million policy.

Why are Federal Rules Important to a Bus Accident Case?

A bus accident lawyer familiar with the federal rules and regulations knows that, depending on the particular circumstances, evidence that a bus driver or carrier violated the federal rules can be useful in showing negligent or careless conduct. For example, evidence that a federal rule requires drivers to drive no more than 10 hours a day without resting may be useful in a trial wherein the bus driver claims he was acting reasonably by operating his or her bus for 16 hours the night prior to a fatal accident

Contact the offices of Zinda Law Group for assistance after a bus accident. You can call our offices at (800) 863-5312 to schedule a free consultation. We can analyze the facts of your case, help you understand what federal laws and regulations may have been broken, and how that fact might impact your recovery of compensation.