OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5537

AN ACT CONCERNING WHEELCHAIR TRANSFER SAFETY.

SUMMARY:

This bill requires (1) anyone transporting someone being transferred into or out of a motor vehicle while in a wheelchair to provide and use a device designed to secure the person in the wheelchair while transferring him from the ground to the vehicle or the vehicle to the ground and (2) operators of certain specific types of newly registered vehicles to provide additional protection through the use of a device that secures the wheelchair to the motor vehicle's mechanical lift, or otherwise prevents or seeks to prevent the person from falling from the vehicle. The device used to secure the person to the wheelchair must be in the vehicle at all times.

The bill authorizes the motor vehicle commissioner to adopt regulations, in consultation with the transportation and public health commissioners, to implement these requirements.

The bill designates violations of these requirements as infractions.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2009

VEHICLES IN WHICH WHEELCHAIR MUST BE SECURED TO LIFT

For certain types of lift-equipped vehicles that are registered for the first time on or after October 1, 2009, the bill requires that the operator provide and use an additional device that secures the wheelchair to the vehicle's mechanical lift or otherwise prevents or seeks to prevent the person in the wheelchair from falling from the vehicle. These vehicles include:

1. livery vehicles;

2. service buses;

3. invalid coaches;

4. vanpool vehicles;

5. school buses;

6. motor buses;

7. student transportation vehicles;

8. camp vehicles; and

9. vehicles used by municipal, volunteer, and commercial ambulances, rescue services, and management services.

By law, a management service is an employment organization that provides emergency medical technicians or paramedics to an emergency medical service organization, but does not own or lease any ambulances or other emergency medical vehicles. The law defines a rescue service as any organization whose primary purpose is to search for lost people or to render emergency service to people who are in dangerous or perilous circumstances.

Service buses, school buses, and student transportation vehicles must meet the restraint device requirement as a condition of their required periodic safety inspections conducted by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Department of Public Health may not issue a license or certificate to a volunteer, municipal, or commercial ambulance service, rescue service, or management service unless the service meets the bill's requirements. The Department of Transportation may not issue a permit to operate livery vehicles unless they meet the requirements. Any entity holding a livery permit issued before October 1, 2009 must comply with the requirements by that date.

BACKGROUND

Vehicle Definitions

A motor vehicle in livery service is any vehicle in the business of transporting passengers for hire except for taxis, motor buses, school buses, and student transportation vehicles. Livery vehicles may only be operated under permits issued by the Department of Transportation.

Service buses are vehicles other than vanpool vehicles and school buses that are designed and regularly used to carry 10 or more passengers in private transportation service without charge to the individual.

Invalid coaches are vehicles used exclusively to transport non-ambulatory patients not confined to stretchers to or from medical facilities and a patient's home in non-emergency situations or used in emergencies as backup vehicles.

Vanpool vehicles are vehicles whose primary purpose is daily transportation of people between home and work on a prearranged nonprofit basis, and that are manufactured and equipped to provide seating capacity for (1) seven to 15 people, if owned by or leased to an individual person, an employee of that person, or to an employee of a governmental entity in Connecticut or (2) six to 19 people, if owned by or leased to a regional ridesharing organization in Connecticut that is recognized by the Department of Transportation.

Motor buses are vehicles other than taxicabs operated in whole or in part on a highway providing transportation by indiscriminately receiving or discharging passengers, or running on a regular route between fixed termini.

Student transportation vehicles are any vehicles other than a registered school bus used by a carrier to transport students, including children requiring special education.

A camp vehicle is one regularly used to transport passengers under age 18 in connection with the activities of any youth camp licensed by the Department of Public Health.

Legislative History

The bill (File 453) was referred to the Appropriations Committee by the House on April 24. The Appropriations Committee favorably reported a substitute bill on April 30. The substitute bill makes the requirements effective on October 1, 2009 instead of October 1, 2007 and limits the requirement that the wheelchair be secured to the lift to specialized vehicles that are newly registered as of October 1, 2009 rather than to both new and existing vehicles. It also (1) clarifies two ambiguities in the original file with respect to the definition of management services and application of the requirements to volunteer ambulance services and (2) makes some minor changes.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Transportation Committee

Joint Favorable Change of Reference

Yea

30

Nay

0

(03/16/2007)

Public Health Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

27

Nay

0

(03/26/2007)

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

44

Nay

0

(04/30/2007)