California Vehicle Code section 545 defines “school bus”. When you read it you will notice some inherent conflicts between (a) and (b), but don’t be fooled. The subsections of 545 stand separate and alone, meaning that there is a “OR” statement at the end of each subsection leading to either/or for each. This section of code drove me absolutely crazy when I started my research. I have contacted the CHP on numerous occasions and received various answers about this section of code. The question I always like to ask them is this – since 545 is simply definitions, under what section of code would you cite someone that has violated subsection (a). Try it sometime.
At any rate, if any of the vehicles listed in (a)-(k) are what you are operating, then it is not a school bus.
The 10-passenger rule, comes from subsection (b). See below:
545. A “schoolbus” is a motor vehicle designed, used, or maintained
for the transportation of any school pupil at or below the
12th-grade level to or from a public or private school or to or from
public or private school activities, except the following:
(a) A motor vehicle of any type carrying only members of the
household of the owner of the vehicle.
(b) A motortruck transporting pupils who are seated only in the
passenger compartment, or a passenger vehicle designed for and
carrying not more than 10 persons, including the driver, unless the
vehicle or truck is transporting two or more disabled pupils confined
(c) A motor vehicle operated by a common carrier, or by and under
the exclusive jurisdiction of a publicly owned or operated transit
system, only during the time it is on a scheduled run and is
available to the general public, or on a run scheduled in response to
a request from a disabled pupil confined to a wheelchair, or from a
parent of the disabled pupil, for transportation to or from nonschool
activities, and the motor vehicle is designed for and actually
carries not more than 16 persons including the driver, is available
to eligible persons of the general public, and the school does not
provide the requested transportation service.
(d) A school pupil activity bus.
(e) A motor vehicle operated by a carrier licensed by the
Interstate Commerce Commission which is transporting pupils on a
school activity entering or returning to the state from another state
(f) A youth bus.
(g) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, the
governing board of a district maintaining a community college may, by
resolution, designate any motor vehicle operated by or for the
district, a schoolbus within the meaning of this section, if it is
primarily used for the transportation of community college students
to or from a public community college or to or from public community
college activities. The designation shall not be effective until
written notification thereof has been filed with the Department of
the California Highway Patrol.
(h) A state-owned motor vehicle being operated by a state employee
upon the driveways, paths, parking facilities, or grounds specified
in Section 21113 that are under the control of a state hospital under
the jurisdiction of the State Department of Developmental Services
where the posted speed limit is not more than 20 miles per hour. The
motor vehicle may also be operated for a distance of not more than
one-quarter mile upon a public street or highway that runs through
the grounds of a state hospital under the jurisdiction of the State
Department of Developmental Services, if the posted speed limit on
the public street or highway is not more than 25 miles per hour and
if all traffic is regulated by posted stop signs or official traffic
control signals at the points of entry and exit by the motor vehicle.
(i) A general public paratransit vehicle, if the general public
paratransit vehicle does not duplicate existing schoolbus service,
does not transport a public school pupil at or below the 12th grade
level to a destination outside of that pupil’s school district, and
is not used to transport public school pupils in areas where
schoolbus services were available during the 1986-87 school year. In
areas where expanded school services require expanded transportation
of public school pupils, as determined by the governing board of a
school district, general public paratransit vehicles shall not be
used to transport those pupils for a period of three years from the
date that a need for expansion is identified. For purposes of this
section, a pupil is defined as a student at or below the 12th grade
level who is being transported to a mandated school activity.
(j) A schoolbus with the flashing red light signal system, the
amber warning system, and the schoolbus signs covered, while being
used for transportation of persons other than pupils, to or from
school or school related activities.
(k) A motor vehicle, other than a motor vehicle described in
subdivision (b), that is designed to carry not more than 25 persons
including the driver, while being used for the transportation of
pupils to or from school-related activities if the vehicle is
operated by a passenger charter-party carrier certified and licensed
by the Public Utilities Commission pursuant to Chapter 8 (commencing
with Section 5351) of Division 2 of the Public Utilities Code that is
not under a contractual agreement with a school or school district,
and the transportation does not duplicate schoolbus service or any
other transportation services for pupils contracted, arranged, or
otherwise provided by the school or school district.