During a typical school year, approximately 3 million kids ride a bus to school each day. Additional trips happen for
athletic contests, field trips and other activities outside of school.
School buses are one of the safest vehicles on the road, involved in less than 1% of all traffic fatalities nationwide.
But what if one of those fatalities is in your district? How about the other risks related to getting groups of kids safely
on and off buses or traveling with children who don’t always follow the rules?
Now throw in distracted bus drivers, who are trying to keep their eyes on both the road and the kids simultaneously,
or drivers who bring their own behaviour issues on board, such as cellphone usage or problems handling stress and
It’s a lot to manage – which is exactly why every school system, whether public or private, needs a comprehensive
insurance and risk management plan for their bus fleets.
Protecting the fleet
Your transportation fleet may consist of only the standard yellow school bus, but it may also include smaller activity
buses and vans. A “bus” is defined as any vehicle with a capacity of 11 or more (including the driver) that is used to
carry students to and from school or related events.
These buses are categorized as “passenger transportation vehicles,” which means each driver will need a commercial
driver’s license. In addition, required insurance includes:
Commercial auto liability – Mandated in every province, this protects your driver and the school district
when the driver is accused of negligence or found to be at fault for an accident. It covers the medical costs
for any pedestrians or other motorists who are injured or killed, as well as the repair and replacement costs
for any property damage or loss. In most cases, it is the school employing the driver or contractor that
carries the insurance policy for both the vehicle and the driver.
Each province has its own liability requirements. Your insurance broker can pinpoint the proper levels for your own
province and will provide the necessary certificates of insurance to prove you have met the standards.
Commercial auto physical damage – This protects the fleet itself, covering the value of each bus and
providing reimbursement for replacement or repair. This coverage comes in three forms:
Collision coverage, which pays for physical or mechanical damage that may happen when a
bus is hit or hits another vehicle or stationary object, or when a bus overturns.
Comprehensive coverage, which compensates the insured for any physical damage not
addressed with collision coverage. This includes theft, vandalism, fire, hail damage, animal
strikes, falling objects or broken glass that is not the result of a collision or overturn. As with all
policies, confirm the details and any exclusions with your insurance broker.
Specified causes of loss coverage, which is a limited version of comprehensive coverage that
identifies and extends protection for individual loss scenarios, such as mischief or vandalism.
Some districts choose one or more of these narrower policies to save money and because they
do not feel the benefits of the broader, all-risks coverage is worth the premium.
Other popular policies or enhancements that some school districts add are:
Workers’ compensation, as required by your province
Zero deductible for glass repair
Sexual abuse and molestation, an unfortunate but real-life issue that school districts must consider
Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI), which protects you as an employer for claims of wrongful
termination, discrimination, sexual harassment or retaliation
Crisis management for help following a major incident or fatality, including image restoration assistance
Of course, the best approach to protecting your bus fleet is a proactive risk management program. Although every
province essentially builds in some risk management via legislated bus specifications – from the allowable height of
seats to swing arm attachment standards and annual compliance reviews – additional risk management steps you
should take, or at least consider, are:
Driver screening – You can screen for a clean driving record. Check for speeding tickets, traffic violations,
reckless operation or DUI/OVI offenses. Consistently good driving records can also lead to a reduction in
annual premiums. For ongoing review of current employees, there are vendors who provide 24/7
monitoring of driving records as well. As soon as a citation is issued to one of your drivers, you will be
notified. It is also a good idea to conduct criminal and sexual offender background checks.
Driver training – Require drivers to drive their bus routes in advance of the school year, noting any safety
issues on the streets or at each stop. Consider on-road training or search for online safety programs that
highlight a particular safety concern, such as distracted driving.
Telematics – This technology allows real-time tracking of driver behaviour. This could include on-bus
cameras or monitoring units that track and store acceleration rates, braking, sharp turns or other driving
behavior. The trick with any telematics, however, is proper introduction of the program with drivers. You
want them to know it is in place for their protection and to help minimize accidents, not as a punitive
device. Never install telematics without clear communication and framing of its planned usage. If you do
choose this as a risk management tool, the supplier you select should be able to help with proper
introduction and training.
As you consider your overall insurance and risk management program for your fleet, remember that you’re protecting
so much more than a bus. When you provide your drivers the training, the support and the safeguards they need,
they’re free to focus on what really matters – not only the safe delivery of kids to and from school but also creating
an environment that helps kids prepare for or decompress from their day.