Who Are We Hiring to Drive Our Children?

By: Kathleen McLean

Due to the horrific tragedy that recently occurred in Chattanooga Tennessee, there are many people asking themselves “Who are we hiring to drive our children?” Thankfully California is one of the most strict states when it comes to hiring school bus drivers.  Drivers need to go through background checks, first aid classes, extensive interviews with the CHP, written tests as well as road tests.  I have experience in these areas as I own a transportation company here in San Diego.  I feel confident in the state of California school bus drivers.  I have seen first hand the experience they have and their standards of safety.  We hire school bus drivers and people who have had their school bus driver certificate in the past above anyone else that comes in to interview.  They are the safest and responsible drivers on the road. Again that’s here in California.  As reported by the Associated Press, the gentleman driving the school bus in Chattanooga had his license suspended for a year from March 2014 to March 2015 due to a lapse in insurance.  This driver had another accident driving a school bus in September of this year.  He was speeding, failed to yield at a blind curve and crossed the centerline, sideswiping another vehicle.  In the state of California, this gentleman would have lost his ability to drive for any company, never mind a school bus driver.  

No matter how confident we all are in the school bus drivers we hire here in California, people need to keep in mind there are many more times one needs to research the safety for every transportation company.  San Diego and Los Angeles are saturated with party bus operators.  Consumers need to be aware of who they are hiring for their private events.  I know our insurance company will not hire anyone who has had their commercial license for less than four years.  They will not hire someone who has had a moving violation in the last four years.  If our drivers have been in an accident in the last four years, they need to provide the police report proving they were not at fault.  California goes a step further than most states by making sure any bus hired for a school event such as prom or homecoming they have to be SPAB certified, student pupil activity bus certified.  CHP has to come out and perform a separate inspection making sure the bus meets the standards for SPAB.  The company can only hire SPAB certified drivers for these bookings, which are school bus drivers. Our company takes these laws very seriously.  

However, as someone that books reservations, parents and students have no idea that these laws exist.  I have had many parents call and say “I don’t know anything about these party buses, the kids want to get the best price, and I’ll have my daughter/son call you to book the reservation.”  This sounds completely irresponsible to me.  I do not expect a child in high school to research transportation companies for safety and insurance.  I do 100% expect the parents to.  There are some companies here in San Diego operating illegally.  They are putting buses on the road that have either not been inspected by the CHP or have been “grounded” by the CHP for not meeting safety standards.  They are hiring inexperienced drivers for their bookings and some drivers that don’t even hold a Class A or Class B license.  

When a transportation company is operating without proper insurance, their bus hasn’t met safety standards; their drivers do not hold the proper permits, do you honestly think these people are enrolled in a random drug testing program?  I know one thing about the company I run, nothing is more important than the safety of my passengers.  The process of putting and keeping buses on the road is expensive and stressful; people need to make sure the company they are hiring is fully transparent, always having proper registration, insurance, safety inspection and drivers.  

One way to check on companies, and this is the easiest is to go to www.cpuc.ca.gov and search licensed passenger carriers.  You can enter the name of the business and immediately find out if they are active with the state of California, what types of insurance they carry and with what companies.  Please make sure you are doing this every time you hire a company.  Also go a step further and ask the company for a copy of the registration and a copy of the license for the scheduled driver.

If you’d like to skip the hassle of researching a company, you can trust Xperience Transportation. Xperience Transportation buses are SPAB certified, CHP inspected, and offer competitive pricing. For bookings, call 619-385-3171.