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AGLO 1974 No. 90 - October 30, 1974
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

MOTOR VEHICLES ‑- LICENSES ‑- MINIBUSES ‑- STATUS OF THE EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE MINIBUSES

RCW 46.20.440, which requires an additional examination and special license endorsement for operators of certain motor vehicles, does not apply to the drivers of minibuses, accommodating twelve to twenty passengers, which are operated by The Evergreen State College and used for various academically-related field trips.

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                                                                October 30, 1974

Honorable Dean Clabaugh
Administrative Vice President
The Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington 98505                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 90

Dear Sir:
 
            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested the opinion of this office regarding the applicability of RCW 46.20.440 to the operation of certain minibuses by employees of The Evergreen State College.  We paraphrase your question as follows:
 
            Does RCW 46.20.440, which requires an additional examination and special license endorsement for operators of certain motor vehicles, apply to the drivers of minibuses, accommodating twelve to twenty passengers, which are operated by The Evergreen State College and used for various academically-related field trips?
 
            We answer your question in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.
 
                                                                     ANALYSIS
 
            RCW 46.20.440 provides that in order to drive certain types of motor vehicles found by the director of the department of motor vehicles to require special operating skills, a person must pass a qualifying examination and obtain a special endorsement on his regular driver's license.  As identified in the statute, those vehicles are as follows:
 
            ". . . any motor-truck, truck-tractor, school bus, private carrier bus, auto stage or for-hire vehicle as defined by RCW 46.04.310, 46.04.650, 46.04.521, 46.04.050, 46.04.190 and 46.04.416 respectively, found by the director to require special operating skills as hereafter provided, . . ."
 
            Our reason for answering your question in the negative is that, in our opinion, the vehicles described in your letter do not come within any of these statutory definitions.
 
            First, RCW 46.04.310 defines "motor truck" to mean:
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
            ". . . any motor vehicle designed or used for the transportation of commodities, merchandise, produce, freight, or animals."
 
            Here, the vehicles in question are used by The Evergreen State College to transport college students and faculty on academically-related trips.  Therefore, this definition is inapplicable.
 
            Next, RCW 46.04.650 defines "truck-tractor" to mean:
 
            ". . . any motor truck designed and used primarily for drawing a semitrailer and not constructed to carry a load thereon other than a part of the weight of such semitrailer and load so drawn."  (Emphasis supplied.)
 
            As the vehicles in question do not fall under the definition of "motor truck," it is therefore impossible for them to fall under this definition of a "truck-tractor."
 
            Thirdly, the term "school bus" is defined in RCW 46.04.521 to mean:
 
            ". . . every motor vehicle used regularly to transport children to and from school or in connection with school activities, which is subject to the requirements set forth in the most recent edition of 'Specifications for School Buses' published by the state superintendent of public instruction, but does not include buses operated by common carriers in urban transportation of school children."
 
            However, under RCW 28A.03.030 the powers and duties of the state superintendent of public instruction are limited to ". . . matters pertaining to the public schools of the state," and RCW 28A.01.055 defines this term to mean:
 
            ". . . the common schools as referred to in Article IX of the state Constitution and those schools and institutions of learning having a curriculum below the college or university level as now or may be established by law and maintained at public expense."
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
            The superintendent of public instruction thus has no control over college and university vehicles.  Therefore, those vehicles are not ". . . subject to the . . . most recent edition of [his] 'Specifications for School Buses' . . ." from which it follows that they do not constitute "school buses" as above defined.
 
            Next, RCW 46.04.416 defines the term "private carrier bus" to mean:
 
            ". . . every motor vehicle designed for the purpose of carrying passengers (having a seating capacity for eleven or more persons) used regularly to transport persons in furtherance of any organized agricultural, religious or charitable purpose.  Such term does not include buses operated by common carriers under a franchise granted by any city or town or the Washington pulic utilities commission."  (Emphasis supplied.)
 
            However, it is our understanding that the vehicles here in question are used solely to transport students and faculty members on academically, educationally-related field trips ‑ and not for "any organized agricultural, religious or charitable purpose."  The use of these vehicles by The Evergreen State College is confined to educational purposes.  Therefore, it is apparent that they do not fall within the definitional structure of a "private carrier bus" as above defined.
 
            The next term referred to in RCW 46.20.440, supra, is that of "auto stage."  This term is defined by RCW 46.04.050 to mean:
 
            ". . . any motor vehicle used for the purpose of carrying passengers together with incidental baggage and freight or either, on a regular schedule of time and rates:  Provided, That no motor vehicle shall be considered to be an auto stage where substantially the entire route traveled by such vehicle is within the corporate limits of any city or town or the corporate limits of any adjoining cities or towns."  (Emphasis supplied.)
 
            You have advised us, however, that the vehicles here in question are not operated on a regular schedule of time and rates.  Instead, they are used by the college on an unscheduled basis to transport students and faculty members on academically-related trips.  It therefore follows that  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] they do not fall within this definition of an "auto stage."
 
            Finally, RCW 46.20.440 refers to the term "for hire vehicle" which is defined in RCW 46.04.190 to mean:
 
            ". . . any motor vehicle other than an auto stage used for the transportation of persons for compensation."  (Emphasis supplied.)
 
            However, in AGO 1968 No. 37 [[to Harold R. Koch, Prosecuting Attorney, Thurston County on December 19, 1968]], a copy of which you will find enclosed, we advised that:
 
            ". . . in order to be operating a motor vehicle 'for compensation' . . . it is necessary that a person's operation of a vehicle (of the type to which the statute applies) be a distinct employment duty for which compensation is paid, and not a mere incidental or occasional part of his job."
 
            In essence, that opinion held that in order for a person to be operating a motor vehicle "for compensation," within the purview of RCW 46.20.440, supra, (which at that time only required the special endorsement on a driver's license if a person were driving "for compensation"), it was necessary that the operation of such a vehicle be a distinct employment duty for which compensation was paid.  Here, we understand that no additional compensation in the form of salary or other inducements is paid to the drivers of the vehicles in question when used on the academically-related trips you have described.  Consequently, it is apparent that these vehicles do not constitute "for hire vehicles."
 
                        SUMMARY
 
            In summary, and for the foregoing reasons, we thus conclude that RCW 46.20.440, supra, is inapplicable to the operation by The Evergreen State College of such minibuses as are used by the college to transport students and faculty members on academically and educationally-related field trips.  Therefore, there is no necessity for the drivers of those vehicles to obtain the special endorsement to their drivers' licenses which is required by that statute.
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]
            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
 
Very truly yours,
 
SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

JOHN H. LUDWICK
Assistant Attorney General

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