(ABP) — If churches choose to charter a bus for long trips, they need to carefully examine the companies they hire, a representative of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration suggested.
Before hiring any carrier, request the bus company's United States Department of Transportation number, said Donna Channel with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration consumer and public affairs office. With that information, a church can log onto www.safersys.org for information such as the company's safety rating and crash history and whether the company is an authorized for-hire carrier.
Channel suggests churches, schools and other non-profit entities ask the following questions, listed in her agency's “Bus Transportation Toolkit” on its website (www.fmcsa.dot.gov):
— Does the driver have a current commercial driver's license with a passenger endorsement?
— Does the driver have a valid medical certificate?
— Does the company have a driver drug and alcohol testing program that complies with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations?
— Will the trip be completed within the legal limit of 10 driving hours? If not, will there be a second driver or overnight rest stop scheduled to complete the trip legally?
— Does the company have its buses inspected annually? By whom?
— Does the company have the required $5 million public liability insurance?
— Does the company subcontract with others for equipment and drivers? If so, what is the name of the second company and its U.S. Department of Transportation number?
— Does the company have notification procedures for roadside emergencies and breakdowns? Is the driver well-equipped with a wireless communication device?
Likewise, churches should adopt policies for drivers of vehicles operated for church business or activities, whether the vehicles are owned by the church or by individuals, according to a new publication.
“Keeping Your Church Out of Court,” a notebook of materials produced by the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptist Annuity Board, provides a driver policy checklist.
The resource, prepared by a Texas law firm, suggests a church's driver policy should:
— Require drivers to complete an application providing name, address, age, driver's license number, description of vehicle, proof of auto insurance and driving record for at least the previous five years. The application also should include a release allowing the church to obtain a copy of the person's driving record from the state.
— Designate an individual or committee at the church to review all applications and maintain a list of approved drivers.
— Set a minimum age for drivers.
— Establish procedures to follow in case of accident or injury.
— Require at least two adults to be in any vehicle when children are being transported.
— Maintain a separate authorized drivers list for church buses or van if their operation requires special training or experience.
— Stipulate that a driver must receive written permission to operate a vehicle for a specific trip, rather than allowing drivers to determine for themselves whether they should operate a vehicle on church business.