UMA joins coalition to battle rule’s unfair burden
A year after rejecting a request to exempt school buses from the UCR fleet size calculation, the Unified Carrier Registration Plan Board of Directors (UCR Board) reversed its decision.
This time, the UCR Board heard the request from a coalition of 26 trade associations — including the United Motorcoach Association. The show of unity along with more evidence of the inequity and substantial burden to for-hire school bus contractors made a difference, says Maria Battista, Association Director of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA).
“The UCR Board unanimously recognized that an exemption was warranted for the intrastate transport of school children,” Battista said.
At issue was whether the UCR Board would allow an exemption for school buses from the UCR fleet size calculation and fees when the school bus was only used for the intrastate transport of children to and from school and to school-related activities.
“Over time, the decision by the UCR Board will save the for-hire school bus contractor industry millions of dollars for school buses not used in interstate commerce,” Battista told Bus & Motorcoach News.
Negative impact on industry
Battista was part of a team that met with the UCR Board on Dec. 13 to request the exemption for school buses owned by for-hire contractors used in the intrastate transport of school children. Following the presentation and discussion, the UCR Board unanimously approved the request.
Without a change in the law, smaller school bus contractors felt pressure to discontinue interstate trips due to the cost, which were provided to take students to school-related activities such as a band competition, sports activity or field trip.
“School bus contractors weren’t making money on these trips,” Battista said. “It was just a courtesy. They were being penalized by having to pay UCR fees for a whole fleet if one or two buses crossed state lines.”
The fees generated are used for the enforcement of safety regulations — many of which do not apply to school buses, Battista said. Adding to the disparity is that public schools that own their own buses are not subject to the UCR program.
Calling the UCR Board decision the largest advocacy win of the year, Battista praised all the associations who supported the effort.
“We can’t thank these associations enough for joining our request, which was fair and reasonable,” she said. “We also thank the UCR Board for revisiting the issue.”