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House | March 19, 2013 | Committee Room | Transportation

Full MP3 Audio File

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45-55 miles an hour. Now I handed out a handout it's got 4 pages on it. Basically a lot of this we went through before but on page 1 which I circled was primarily saying that the DOT in particular warns us that slow moving buses are a hazard. And also, the buses that you generally see on the express way the DOT prohibits school buses from being on the express way when they're in their routes in other words when they're carrying children. The only time you see those on the express way is either they're going in between routes or they are going to a maintenance shop or going home or coming to. But that's why you've seen them on the express way with the lights on going 40-45 miles an hour. They are unoccupied. The second and the third pages are, I'm trying to emphasize that, the school bus driver is a professional driver. And even more so that a person who's driving a car or a truck that goes beyond that and it says that they're required a lot more education and training and testing and then on the final page I wanted to give you a overview of what other states are doing. And that's probably the significant one because we asked two questions when we did these interviews and we actually called the folks up we didn't rely on the internet for this information, is that North Carolina currently our maximum speed limit is 45 other than I want to say activity buses can go 55 but 45 miles an hour generally and of course you'll see South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. Georgia and Virginia are 55, Virginia is 60, and then Tennessee and Florida are they don't have a governor set and they strictly go with the current speed limit on their buses. So we are the only ones, in fact Virginia just changed their law 3 years ago from 45 and the primary reason was complaints from bus drivers themselves that they said it's just plain dangerous to go 45 miles and hour on the express way especially when they are ongoing in traffic that even though the speed limit may say 55, they're going 60, 65 sometimes even higher. So the other thing I wanted to add just real quickly to end this up is the reason why I actually brought this up is it's one of those bills, it's one of those situations where you experience it personally. I don't know how many of you have ever said years ago "There ought to be a law against this." You see something, "There ought to be a law against this." And you see it everyday and you say "If I was ever in the legislature I would change this." And mine is no different but oddly enough 10 years ago I never thought I'd be in the legislature but here I am. So I would get on the express way, I'm a contractor. Not like many of you I drive a truck sometimes I pull a trailer behind the truck with equipment on it and I would get on the express way every morning probably from the south end of Charlotte to go Gastonia and I'm just satisfied when I can get on safely, and this is a pretty busy road in the morning, and I'll park myself or keep myself in the right lane and go 55-60 and I have no problem and I'll do that all the way to Gastonia but what I would counter is on a minimum of 3 buses and sometimes 4 sometimes 5, I would have to veer around them and go around them and try and get back and the problem was if you're on a highway not many people are on it and it's not a big deal but when you're on the express way it's really busy it's really difficult, acceleration is at great and basically it's a personal issue for me, I've observed it and if you've done it before you know. Thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Any questions from the committee? Representative Faircloth. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Forgive me Mr. Chairman and it's taking so long. I understand

?? concerned about this issue and you only have to go out here on interstate 40 through raghleigh and see what a problem this is with the school buses having to drive 10 or 15 miles, 20 miles slower than passing traffic. I think a lot of this has been created by the fact that we have by having children going to school all over these school areas the buses have terrible patterns they have to run to catch up and get around to all the kids and if they dont take these shortcuts down the interstates or the busier highways they just cant make those routes and the kids end up staying another hour on the buses. I think this is a good move. I think it's unsafe right now when you're on a 65 mile an hour highway and you come up behind a 45 mile an hour school bus. It can cause some real safety problems so I'm in favor of this bill ??. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay Representative Blackwell. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you Mr. Chairman. Reppresentative Brody, clarify for me if you will. In the listing the you got about what's going on in the other states where it says issues regarding safety where you've got none in all those columns. What exactly does that mean? is that related to the provision that is in the PCS about not required to use hazard light or what do you about safety when it is refered to in your chart? Where you've got none. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes that's correct, we, Representative Blackwell, we asked a specific question. In order to get consistency amongst all the states we have to ask the same question to everybody. And what we asked is do you have any safety issues regarding the maximum speed limits that you allow your buses to run on. And that was generally the answer. We put none some say no we didn't have any. We kinda condensed it down ??. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up Mr. Chairman [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative Brody, do we know what the other states practice is as to requiring the use of hazard lights by school buses under any circumstances? [SPEAKER CHANGES] No I'm sorry I can't give you that answer. This also gets referred to the education committee between now and then I could get you that answer. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative Jader [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you Mr. Chairman, I am along with Representative Brody, one of the two primary sponsers of the bill and a firm supporter. And I did have and I thought this was an important anecdote to share with the committee. I did speak to Tim Morgan who is the vice chairman of the CMS board of education who spoke to Ms Standford who heads transportation for CMS school district. One of the issues I said when will this bill be relevent? And the majority of the time that our school buses are actually on the interstate except the activity buses and the athletic buses is at 6:15 in the morning when they're running the buses from one school to another to basically locate them to run their routes. So at 6:15 in the morning during a lot of times when it's dark outside no students trying to get from one school to the next. To allow this is truly a safety measure. And one that I think is well heeded and well served for this committee to support. And i would certainly ask for you alls support of the legislation. [SPEAKER CHANGES] President McManus [SPEAKER CHANGES] ?? but I am curious why ?? what was the thinking behind that? [SPEAKER CHANGES] There the hazard lights were from the original bill when they were going 45. It was real important if you're going to go 45 even if you're towing a car or normal everybody flips on their hazard lights because it's just plain dangerous. I just basically carried that forward. 55 now is pretty much the posted speed limit around most of the main expressways and limited control highways anyways. So I felt the people go 55 but they really don;t need it. It's just that simple. [SPEAKER CHANGES] President ?? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Question. [SPEAKER CHANGES] President Brody, the way I understand this bill is that

[speaker] its not going to be un lawful to operate a school bus at a speed greater than 55, if its unoccupied but i think whats going to happen is that the govenor is going to be set to 55, is that the correct in the state [speaker changes] well thats interesting the ??? is very clositation to the shells and ???, and this program is basically, is optional to the districts so they dont even have to go 55 if they want to go back to the old 45 with the lights on, they can do that but a lot of governors are set to 45 and inorder to change that they would have to change the govenor itself, most of those are electronic so its reletivity easy project to do, for ??? question [speaker changes] so what we're saying then , my original thought was, well why didnt we just say its unlawful to drive occupied or unoccupied school bus greater then, but the way i the intricuricies of the way its described here is that the moving the bus from one place to the other, would just be subject to the rules of the road, up to 55 miles per hour, is that correct, [speaker changes] i dont quite follow what you are saying [speaker changes] its not unlawful [speaker changes] its not unlawful to , we distinguish between occupied and unoccupied bus in there, and basically its the same speed limit, but we distinguish between the two,because my experience with them is unoccupied bus, the problem is with unoccupied buses, i hope that helps [speaker changes] ok representative Brian Brown [Speaker changes to 9 Rep Brian Brown] for a motion more appropiate , thank you, representative Brisson [speaker changes to Dem 22 William D. Brisson] thank you mr. chair , mr. Brody its all about child safety , with school buses and right now the state of North Caralina says again to not exceed 45 mph with children on the buses transporting kids back and forth to school, if you move the govenor up to 55 miles an hour , that eliminates that opportunity and chances, and i know that your saying that these are professional drivers, these drivers are payed by the hour their not on a time schedule other thrn tryig to get the kids to school, for instance the only time their on time schedule is when they have transporting the kids to school , its still governed , school buses are identified, the big yellow bus, all over the state, everybody recognizes rather you driving from out of state from instate driving, and the only way you going guarantee that these kids bus doesnt exceed 45 mile an hour, is have that school bus govern that 45 mile an hour, thats the purpose of the governorship to start with, if you change that then, how , who is going to inforce , how is it going to be inforce, when you exceeding, theres no way, i mean these are human beings thats drivers , and i know about being a human being, its hard to hold when a vehicle actually run faster, its hard to sit there and hold it, and not to exceed 45 mile an hour, these govenors will cut down, going down hill, and not let the bus exceed 45 mile an hour, but it wont do that if you move it up to 55, so i just think we're, introducing something here and i know and understand , i see them on the interstates, not many of them, no more get on there, then have to, but we got to recognize that these are still north carolina state's school buses, we got to observe and we got to respect them so i slow down, every slows down, when they see these school buses but, i just dont see the benefit and the chances chances we're taking to exceed that speed. because its not going to happen when you dont have buses traveling over 45 miles an hour with students on the buses, and we all know that, we got to know it, so you just lose that

control and has taken a big, big step. [SPEAKER CHANGES] You wanna respond to that, Representative Brody? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I guess just briefly. Fortunately the federal government left us a few rights, and one of them is that we are a nation of 50 laboratories of experimentation. And the reason I took the-- when I did the chart I took their surrounding states so nobody could say that I cherry picked any particular states to get my results. So I would say that there are some issues with it, but I think a number of states have increased it. In fact, I'm really surprised at the ones that don't even have governors on that can go the speed limit, and they have said that there's no safety issues that they've experienced with ?? at those speeds. [SPEAKER CHANGES] ?? Pittman. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, Mister Chairman. 2 points if I may. First, touching on what Representative Arp was talking about, I think part of his point may have been - and correct me if I'm wrong - that the law might allow for a bus that's only got a drive on it to go 65 on an interstate, but if you have a governor at 55 it's not going to get to do that anyway. Second thing that I would say is that I also spent some time driving a truck professionally, and have seen some of these people I say got their license at Sears and Roebuck take just stupid chances trying to get around these slow buses on the interstate and that sort of thing. And so I'm in favor of allowing them to go a little faster on those highways, because of the safety hazard that is created by people who don't have the patience in trying to get around them and that sort of thing. Not just interstates, but even on the 4-lane highways I've seen that. I just feel like it is a safety hazard when they have to go so slow in some of those situations. Not so much because of the buses themselves, but because of some of the people who I say take those unnecessary chances trying to get around them. Thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Are you going to respond to that, Representative Brody, or not? Okay. All right, Representative Brawley. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, Mister Chairman. I have a question for the bill's sponsor. Representative Brody as I understand it the current law is that a school bus has a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour. And the original intent of the bill was to allow school buses to travel at 55 when they were not carrying students. But if I read the way the bill's written now, it will allow school buses to travel at 55 mph both with and without students. Is that correct, sir? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative Brawley, not quite. The original bill went a little bit farther. It said that you can go the speed limit, which can be much higher than 55 mph. What we did was - because of objection and people I've spoken too - we need to just stop that confusion and just make it a straight 55 mph for everyone. And also this chart is for buses that either carry or don't carry kids. It doesn't matter. The chart represents both of those. [SPEAKER CHANGES] May I ask a follow-up, Mister Chairman. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Currently, under current laws, school buses with students on board have a maximum speed of what? [SPEAKER CHANGES] It's 45 unless it's an activity bus, which is 55. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up, sir. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So what we're actually talking, with this bill we're just raising the speed of buses carrying children to 55 maximum. And we are not allowing buses with out children to go the speed limit, but just to have that same speed of 55. Is that correct, sir? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes sir, that's correct. It's going to be the same for everyone. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Now, Mister Chairman my last question. Really the different is if a school bus has children on board - is travelling 55 miles an hour on an interstate highway - it is required to use it's hazard flashers. But a bus without children on board may, but is not required, to use hazard flashers and that's primarily the different, sir. [SPEAKER CHANGES] When buses are carrying their children they don't have to use hazard lights. It's just the hazard lights were for the unoccupied buses that were going 45 miles an hour on high-speed highways. [SPEAKER CHANGES] One last follow-up.

Mr. Chairman the question then becomes in the information that was handed down in the same column in for outlook including the state drive and use hazard lights for the entire distance and stay in right away at the passengers occupies ceases to the fun of us as possible so that collision from and where would pose a less direct passion for the passengers an abnormally that is in requires hazard lights and Jerry Giordano interstate highway 55 miles an hour for money would not be required for boss with the term debt that correct from either try this simple 595 o'clock am (SPEAKER CHANGES) I could talk to the Airport litany of staff, to clarify that particular staffing agency chairman and CEO of this Congress to use a browser points and (SPEAKER CHANGES) suppress on a policy from department of construction on which they should read on CDs as one student from two more were steady on a listing operators and what the citizens on under state law to go back and says it wants to remove but on the six names (SPK) of the moment or that they're strong brought in more government calls for Isadora to carry Argentina , Bolivia would address (SPEAKER CHANGES) on the homes at others on this morning in my appreciation subcommittee and that is we believe the goodness of an oddity people this automated and we choose to believe the goodness of in a question, enforce these highly trained highly regulated drivers do what we know we're asking the bus drivers against the same way we enforce me, and here's a case being with my three young children and the caller I'm assuming no one was appointed governor and parents call our history for itself however we are considering we do have a government allowed to 55 and a school bus driver his class B and bus they get promotion and worst thing that is their job as I’m said it has anyone you'll never find not just be not yet these drivers into the willy nilly out there is disrespectful to the school bus drivers and fashion virus is simply call you respond that are some bright all objects are next issue of the sandstone baking dish share figures in Korea, (SPEAKER CHANGES) appreciate you bringing the bill until it's important to you and all, some more work on the wane, still I will Spiegel Gifford the recall spells out and tells me Elmo followed him, I drive for only every day I believe my house is 730 and if you don't mind when the bus Beech craft in one of the division between us one Rollie emotion as future going to the Max size for details, religion or family and I can understand how people those buses to go faster , and about 11:50 every day it was funny, good still came out I guess a week ago because it hasn't, think about it other than four Fraley every morning and goes back to live first, life is nothing will move that the most important thing to remember about the licenses is how many points as response from using a week away from the school board seats into this day when I see a school blocks, snack foods low that are less as a driver now wait was no way of ?? but tell that at a time that the most secure a limiting your own idol to figure 5 minutes, 10 minutes late on that no is important for somebody but the most important thing is this must be used safely in the home safely and so therefore, analog difficulty with this bill, 10 miles makes a difference to someone, we talk about unskilled drivers all are in now with disrespect for I hope your money is, to close to the level of a show like your belt so that only in this respect the one could only work or on this bill will have to say it, like Italy is …….

And if I could find a good reason, a safety reason which is the only reason we should be concerned about with kids on a bus I might would support the bill but currently the safety is saying 45 and I will remind you that's a 70 mile an hour zone I travel in every morning. And as I veer left to go around on the slow down so does everybody else it's just a general rule after so many years but I thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Do you want to respond to that Representative Blust. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you Representative Stone. One of the things that I may have said before but I wanted to emphasize again is that this is voluntary. Nobody has to do it, I think even if it got passed and actually signed in by the governor it's going to be a process. The local will find out about it and they'll discuss it and then they'll make an evaluation of their bus drivers and their system and the roads they go on and then they decide from there which way to go. I know the road because that's how I get here, highway one and run into the same situations but there are a lot of counties here that don't have expressways or limited access and I would like to have them make their own decisions on if they want to go faster or not. It is a voluntary program. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative Rodney Moore. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you Mr. Chair. Representative Stone basically gave my schpeel. I understand both sides of the argument. I understand of the hindrance that it can possibly be to high ?? like trucks on the highway, I understand that it's a safety issue and I understand that it's a time issue as well because I understand the industry. But at the same time I think that we being Representatives our primary concern should be the overall safety and enhancement of our future which is our children. I have yet to see where and you said it's voluntary and I understand that but I have yet to see where the present system has become such a hindrance to motorists that we need to make a change right now. So I understand that we have talked extensively but just based upon my gut feeling and what I choose as a priority but I'm going to have to vote against it. It has nothing to do with the way you presented it but that's just how I'm going to vote. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative Goodman. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you Mr. Chair and Representative Brody I appreciate all the work you've done on this bill but I have a question relative to something that you said earlier. You mentioned the safety on the interstate highways and how dangerous school buses were going 45 miles an hour. Do you have any data to support that or do you know of any incidence where a school bus going 45 on an interstate caused an accident? [SPEAKER CHANGES] We tried to look for that and it's quite odd. It's the ....if someone is going around a school bus and causes an accident with another car or themselves the school bus just continues on the road. It's that argument of the man who pulls out in the middle of the street and everybody stops and hits everybody and then they just keep on going like it's never happened so that's the problem with identifying that type of thing. We had a hard time finding it. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up Mr. Chairman. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So there is no data to support that idea that they do cause accidents on interstate highways. There is no data to support that? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative ?? do you want to respond to that question? [SPEAKER CHANGES] We don't have any actual data because the data just isn't available. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I have one more follow up [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Finally a little different subject. Do you know how much school bus drivers are paid per hour? [SPEAKER CHANGES] No, I don't. [SPEAKER CHANGES] One last follow up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] One last follow up. So, I think it's fairly low ten dollars an hour or less and most school bus drivers do a tremendous job and really take care of our children but it's hard to be that selective and to expect school bus drivers to be highly trained when the pay scale is so low. Thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] The only thing I have to say to that is they are probably paid more than we are. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Most people are. Representative Boles. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you

This weekend I was watching . . . I’d just to make a comment on the Bill Mr. Chair. This weekend one of our local TV stations, channel 11, they did a story on this particular school bus issue and they singled out Cummberland County. What caught my attention was, that the schools in Cumberland County, the administration, were going to kind of mandate that the cafeteria workers train, get their CDL’s to drive buses or they would lose their jobs. Because, they had like 530 buses and they needed 1100 drivers certified, so if there was an absentee or rotation out, and the lady they interviewed told them that she would be the worst driver possible but she was going to have to do it in order to keep her job. I don’t think speed, this goes back to my commentary, speed is not the problem here, I think it’s a bigger issue of qualified school bus drivers and the pay is one of them, but it concerns me that were going to force someone to do a job that they’re not comfortable with, in order to keep their job. So, I have a problem with it, there is no disrespect, but I can not vote for the Bill. I think there is a much bigger issue than the speed of the bus. When I have an employee telling they’re not comfortable but yet the school system is forcing them to get their CDL’s. The commentary was that most of them couldn’t pass the CDL, but they had until August of this year of they would be hired back next year. So, just as a commentary I have a problem with it that were going to people in uncomfortable positions, if you take a governor off of it, then there’s no control, and she may be late for work and in fear of getting tardy or late again, that she . . . . were all humans. With that’s just a comment. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Hypotheticals are really hard to deal with. Number 1, you mentioned governors are off, the governors aren’t off, they’re just going to be changed or they can voluntarily be changed. I really come back with a reason of response other than if someone makes you do something that you don’t want to do and threatens you with you’re job, I think there some other agencies of this government that they need to speak to. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative Graham. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you Mr. Chair. I just wanted to make a comment. Thank you Mr. Brody for your work and your passion on this Bill. I just need to speak from a rural county’s perspective, I live in rural county, 1700 mile of rural roads throughout Robertson County. Many of these roads are narrow, even though they’re state maintained roads. We have a lot of buses in our county with very well qualified drivers, they are doing great job. My concern is the rush to do this, I know you have good data supporting your intention here, but I’m really concerned from rural county’s perspective putting buses on the road traveling 55 mph with children. Our bus drivers do good job, they’re on a schedule, they run that schedule, they arrive on time, they get their students on time running at 45mph, they get to class on time. I’m just really concerned from that perspective, of the safety and getting on a rural road in Robertson County on a bus moving a 55mph. I’m really concerned about that, I do respect the Bill, but I do have some reservations.

Representative Arp. Let's move along quickly, we're going to have to adjourn in just a moment. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Speaking of the second time, I think what's missing is, I just ran some quick numbers, we're actually making it safer by, one of the things, by looking at how the buses move, the difference between 70 miles an hour and 45 and 70 miles an hour vs 55, what we're talking about is creating a hazard on the road from a rate of closure and we make this by moving the minimum speed up to 55. We actually make it safer by 40%. In terms of the rate of closure to avoid the accident and so, I can appreciate the comments. I think what ccan happen is we could set up the governors at 55. We actually make the rate of closure better in terms of rear end accidents which is what we're trying to avoid on the high speed, and we can reduce that by 40% just in terms of moving this up. ?? [SPEAKER CHANGES]Representative Carney. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Thank you Mr. Chairman. I too want to commend the bill sponsor. You've been very patience twice in ?? For me, I'm not going to be able to support it. I have 11 grandchildren and of those 11, 6 are in school and on school buses. I can tell you I've already heard from some parents this bill is just getting out there. There's a commercial on TV, I don't know if any of you've seen it, I myself have actually done this with my children when they first went off on a school bus, where the father puts his little girl on the school bus and he jumps in the car, I won't advertise for a car but, and he follows it to make sure she's okay. I've had several parents reference that commercial to me and said, do not let these school buses go the speed limit. Now, they have not heard your PCS, I can only imagine what they're gonna be saying. In the past, Mr. Chairman and to the bill sponsors, when the bill has drawn a lot of attention, and people have lots of input and there are different ideas that have been brought up in here, we have appointed subcommittees around that issue and it sounds like to me there's an opportunity here for a subcommittee with the bill sponsor, I'm just suggesting that, where these other issues of the drivers training all of those issues where this does seem to be centering more the conversation both meetings have been around the drivers themselves. What is the fine for a school bus driver going over the speed limit when his governor will let him go 55 and yet it's supposed to be going 45 with kids. There's a seat belt issue that over my 10 years here and many years before that it's always been talked about. So I'm just suggesting there are other options here today rather than voting and moving forward. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay, all due respect to everyone who was asked to speak, we are past time. By house rules we must adjourn a quarter til before session so meeting is adjourned.