Jean Damien Lesay for Localtis
To combat the shortage of school bus drivers, a decree authorizes public officials to carry out a lucrative activity of driving a vehicle assigned to school transport services. This experimental measure is planned for a period of three years.
One decree of December 27, 2022 opens up the possibility for a public official to exercise a gainful activity of driving a vehicle assigned to school or similar transport services.
In concrete terms, public officials will be able to drive school buses put into service, either by a board dependent on the region responsible for organizing school transport services or, where applicable, on the local authority or group of local authorities to which the region has delegated this competence, or by a private passenger transport company having entered into an agreement with the organizing authority.
This measure, approved in November 2022 by the Joint Public Service Council (CCFP) and by the National Council for the Evaluation of Standards (CNEN) and which is of an experimental nature, is planned for a period of three years from 30 December 2022. It results from difficulties in recruiting school bus drivers, particularly in rural areas. The note of the decree points out in this regard that “the organizations which carry out this transport today have difficulties in recruiting drivers, which disrupts the proper functioning of these services as well as transport on demand organized for pupils and students. handicapped”.
Major area of concern
In July 2022, the senator of Meurthe-et-Moselle Véronique Guillotin declared that “according to the carriers, there would be a shortage of 8,000 drivers for school pick-ups, which would potentially affect 400,000 students and families”. At the end of August, the Minister of National Education, Pap Ndiaye, had made the question of school transport a major subject of concern at his back-to-school press conference, acknowledging that the “crisis [était] sharper this year.
“Among the measures likely to be implemented to mitigate the consequences of the driver shortage, the notice continues, has been identified the possibility of allowing public officials to combine their public employment with the lucrative ancillary activity of driving a vehicle assigned to school or similar transport services.” As a reminder, a decree of April 30, 2021 had already lowered to 20 years, instead of 21, the minimum age for driving certain heavy public transport vehicles by people who have received training of more than 280 hours, in order to cope with the shortage of school drivers (see our article of June 15, 2021).
Of course, this faculty will imply prior and individual authorization from the public employer responsible for the agents concerned, who may come from the three public functions: State, territorial and hospital.
Good functioning of the service
It should be noted, however, that this decree is not applicable to public officials covered by a system of combining activities by declaration to their public employer, who can already combine their public employment with the ancillary activity gainful private driving of a vehicle assigned to school transport services or similar. On the other hand, it is applicable to them when the lucrative ancillary activity of driving a vehicle assigned to school or similar transport services would be exercised as a contract under public law.
The public employer who authorizes the cumulation will inform the transport organization for the benefit of which the public official exercises this activity of the information making it possible to ensure that the agent exercises it in compliance with the working time rules, of driving, breaks and rest periods applicable to him. In addition, this activity must not undermine the normal functioning, independence or neutrality of the service to which the staff member is assigned or place him in a position to disregard the provisions relating to the illegal taking of interests.
Finally, this experiment will be the subject of a joint evaluation report by the Ministers of Transport and the Civil Service. To this end, the regional councils will transmit to the regional prefects nine months before its expiry the total number of public officials having carried out this ancillary activity.
A advance decision of the Council of State of December 23, 2022 definitively gives reason to the parents of pupils who had disputed the obligation made to their children to circulate upright and without seatbelt in school buses of the agglomeration community Rochefort Océan (Caro) .
This decision ratifies the judgment of the Administrative Court of Appeal (CAA) of Bordeaux considering that the authorities organizing mobility have the obligation to provide seats in the vehicles of the public transport lines for children, including if these are part of the regular transport network open to all (see our article of April 14, 2022).
To reject the admission of Caro’s appeal, the Council of State dismissed the argument that the CAA of Bordeaux had incorrectly qualified the facts and distorted the documents in the file by judging that line I of its urban transport network met mainly for the need of school transport. Indeed, for Caro, this line was an ordinary regular line and not a line providing public transport for children, in particular because it was “accessible without distinction to all users”. For its part, the CAA of Bordeaux had recalled that “by public transport of children, we mean the public transport of people […] organized primarily for people under the age of eighteen, whatever the reason for the trip”, and that in this case line I served four educational establishments and only operated on weekdays and outside public school holidays.
According to Anateep (National Association for Educational Transport in Public Education), “the judges of the Royal Palace have thus definitively validated the principle that a transport service dedicated to pupils must be carried out by means of a coach. The standing transport of children is therefore not authorized or even tolerated when it is demonstrated that the service is designed primarily to serve schools.