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BTS_TECH TALK


Leveraging Technology to Mitigate Legal Risk & Provide Pupil Transportation- as-a-Service


Written By Matthew W. Daus, Esq.


COVID-19 while on the bus. Concern about the virus has caused nearly every state to enact a back- to-school plan. While these plans are unique to each state and school district, such plans typically address safety on the school bus, such as vehicle cleaning and disinfecting, staggering routes and arrival and departure times at school, maintaining distance between drivers and students on the bus and at bus stops, and use of face coverings by driv- ers and passengers. Numerous technologies are helping schools


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navigate the operational and legal strain that COVID-19 has had on the industry. There are sig- nificant opportunities for student transportation providers to use technology to help them meet and exceed COVID-19 guidelines in reopening plans and reduce their risk of a lawsuit. Properly integrated, this technology could also be leveraged to help these businesses thrive during and after the pandemic, and could re-shape the future of pupil transportation to become more safe and efficient as a “service.”


22 School Transportation News • NOVEMBER 2020


s schools reopen, student transpor- tation providers may face potential COVID-19-related liability, if workers, drivers, students, and others contract


Liability, Risk, and the Duty of Care School reopening plans are primarily based on of-


ficial guidance to minimize the risk of transmission of the virus issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Admin- istration (OSHA), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), state and local governments, and public health authorities. Student transportation providers should adjust their oper- ations so that they are able to implement measures to follow applicable COVID-19 guidelines directed at the student transportation sector. Failing to follow official COVID-19 guidelines


could subject a school district or bus company to a transmission lawsuit based upon negligence, such as the wrongful death lawsuit that Walmart is facing in Illinois for allegedly failing to protect an employee who died from COVID-19.1


Regarding


drivers, workplace-acquired COVID-19 infections could result in workers’ compensation or other liability claims. Similarly, those who ride the bus could pursue a variety of common law tort and statutory claims, if they contract COVID-19 and claim they acquired it on the bus. Successful law-


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