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Types of School Buses

A school bus is a type of bus used for student transport: carrying students to and from school, home, and school events. In North America, school buses are purpose-built vehicles distinguished from other types of buses by design characteristics mandated by federal and state regulations; most notably, the use of school bus yellow, allowed on no other vehicle on the road. In addition to their distinctive paint color, school buses are required to be fitted with warning lights and multiple safety devices.

Type I

A Type I School Bus is a school bus with a manufacturer's rated seating capacity of more than 15 passengers, including the operator. A CDL with a school bus and "P" (passenger) endorsement is required to drive a type I school bus. Type I School Buses must be National School Bus Glossy Yellow. It is legal for the hood and fenders to be lusterless black.

Type II

A Type II School Bus is a school bus with a manufacturer's rated seating capacity of more than ten and fewer than 16 passengers, including the operator. A driver's license with a Type II School Bus endorsement is required to drive a Type II school bus. Type II School Buses manufactured after January 1, 2000, must be painted school bus yellow.

Multi-Function School Activity Buses (MFSAB)

A Multi-Function School Activity Bus (MFSAB) is a vehicle that meets the construction and safety standards for a "multi-function school activity bus" adopted by rule by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The manufacturer will label vehicles meeting these standards with a sticker that clearly identifies the vehicle type as an MFSAB. Vehicles that do not have this identifying sticker are not Multi-function School Activity Buses and cannot be used as such. Multi-function School Activity Buses can be used to transport students on trips. They cannot be used to transport students to and/or from home and school.

Drivers of Multi-Function School Activity Buses are required to have school bus endorsements:

  • If the school bus is owned or operated by a school or in connection with school activities.
  • If transporting Head Start children in a situation where a school bus or MFSAB is required.

Multi-function School Activity Buses require a regular yearly inspection only.

An MFSAB can be used for a road test to obtain your school bus endorsement; however, your license will be restricted to operating MFSAB only.


Can drivers with the appropriate class CDL and "P" endorsement (but no "S" endorsement) drive a Type I School Bus to the exam location? Do school bus lights and signs need to be covered?

Yes. They don't need to be accompanied by a licensed CDL operator with an "S" endorsement. School bus signs and lights do not need to be covered.

Why do school buses not require seat belts?

According to the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration:

“Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car. That’s because school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road; they’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries; and in every State, stop-arm laws protect children from other motorists.

Seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968, and 49 States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the use of seat belts in passenger cars and light trucks. There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping passengers safe in these vehicles. But school buses are different by design, including a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.

Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than passenger cars and light trucks do. Because of these differences, bus passengers experience much less crash force than those in passenger cars, light trucks, and vans.

NHTSA decided the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called “compartmentalization.” This requires that the interior of large buses protect children without them needing to buckle up. Through compartmentalization, children are protected from crashes by strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.

Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.”

Some states have passed legislation requiring school buses to have seatbelts in them.  As of now, Vermont has not.  Some school districts and/or transportation providers have also mandated seatbelts be in the school buses they use.

Does a mechanic who inspects school buses need to have a school bus endorsement?

No. DMV policy states "School bus mechanics will be required to possess, at a minimum, a Class B CDL with a "P" (passenger) endorsement to operate an empty school bus." This applies only to inspection of Type I School Buses. For Type II School Buses the inspection mechanic does not need a CDL or a Type II School Bus endorsement.

Can a driver holding a valid out-of-state license (either CDL or non-CDL) drive a Type II School Bus in the State of Vermont?

If the driver meets all qualifications for a Vermont Type II School Bus endorsement a card will be issued to the individual allowing them to drive a Type II School Bus in this state. These requirements include attending a Vermont school bus clinic, passing all required tests (knowledge, vision, and skill tests), and submitting a medical form.

Can a school bus endorsement be added to an out-of-state CDL?

No, the school bus endorsement must be added by the state that issued the CDL.

Can a driver holding an out-of-state CDL drive a school bus for a Vermont school?

Yes, if their license has both an "S" (school bus) and "P" (passenger) endorsement. There are no additional requirements.

Do all school buses have to be yellow?

Type I School Buses must be National School Bus Glossy Yellow. It is legal for the hood and fenders to be lusterless black. Type II School Buses, manufactured after January 1, 2000, must be painted school bus yellow.

Who is responsible for establishing school bus routes and stops?

The School Board has the authority and responsibility to establish bus routes and stops. The school bussing coordinator should also be consulted. When the stop is on a state highway, the Vermont Agency of Transportation can be consulted and may send someone out to look at the stop and put up a sign if warranted.

What is the appropriate use of school buses that are registered as municipal vehicles?

In order for a school bus to obtain a municipal registration it must be owned by a municipality and used entirely by that municipality or any other municipality. A municipality may allow one of its buses to be used by another municipality. Compensation is not relevant.

Do buses transporting Vermont students to and from school (or in connection to school activities) need to be registered in this state?

There is no requirement that a school bus registered and garaged out-of-state, used for transportation of Vermont students, be registered in Vermont.

Does a school bus "garaged" in Vermont need to be registered in Vermont, or is it acceptable to have out-of-state plates?

If the bus is garaged in Vermont it must be registered in Vermont. Vehicles incidentally in Vermont are not required to be registered in Vermont if they are here temporarily and will soon be returning to their home garage.

How long is a DOT (Department of Transportation) physical good for?

A DOT physical is good for up to two (2) years and will be accepted by DMV (including for testing purposes) as long as valid, regardless of issue and expiration date.

If a school bus is equipped with seat belts are the occupants required to wear them?

For a Type I school bus: No.

For a Type II school bus: Yes.

Who needs to comply with CDL driver requirements and regulations?

School contractors need to be in compliance with all CDL driver qualification requirements and regulations (FMCSR 391). It should be noted while there is an exemption for "to and from school" operation, there is no such exemption for trips performed by contractors. School transportation performed by a state or political subdivision of a state (i.e., municipalities) are exempt from some CDL requirements. For more information see FMCSR 390.3 (a), applicability, (f)(1)(2) exceptions (see interpretations for this section).

What paperwork needs to be maintained by school transportation coordinators?
  • Copies of physicals (to include vision and hearing screening),
  • Initial 3-year driving record,
  • Documentation indicating all students are participating in emergency evacuations twice a year, and
  • Records of vehicle pre-trip inspections.

Contractors also need to be in compliance with all CDL driver qualification requirements and regulations (FMCSR 391).

How can I find a drug testing program for my company?

Contact Vermont League of Cities and Towns, Vermont Student Transportation Association, Vermont Truck and Bus Association or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Who needs to be part of a drug testing program?

Employers of drivers holding CDL's must have a drug testing program. Drivers holding CDL's are subject to random testing. These requirements do not impact individuals holding a Type II endorsement.