Hibben currently has only one bus that is available to any group associated with Hibben UMC. Any group using the vehicle must provide a driver properly licensed to operate the vehicle and be approved by the Board of Trustees. The 14 passenger Blue Bird does not require the driver to have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). All groups must submit an application at the earliest possible time as use of the vehicles is on a first-come basis. A list of approved drivers is kept in the church office. Anyone not on the list will not have access to the vehicles. See Hibben's Vehicle Use Policy which governs all scheduling & utilization, operation, maintenance and safety matters. This policy document is available in the church office and as a PDF document on this web site's Publication page. Another PDF document, Hibben's Bus Driver Requirements is also available on the same page.
Additional pictures showing interior views and seating arrangements can be found at the bottom of this page.
In 2001, S.C. Annual Conference Chancellor James R. Allen and Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey advised Churches to replace their vans with school buses, especially when transporting youth. The recently passed Jacob's Law (Bill H.3300), amended the Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1976, by adding Section 56-5-195 so as to provide that public and private schools in South Carolina transporting ten or more students must use vehicles defined as a school bus under 49 U.S.C. Section 30125, and comply with all applicable federal regulations. Interpretations of this law also made it applicable to churches.
Based on this advice, Hibben's Administrative Board directed that Hibben's 15 passenger, non-conforming van be replaced with a suitable bus. Jacob's law also stated that it was still legal to use our van until 1 July 2006 because of a grandfather clause applicable to vans purchased prior to 1 July 2000. However, because of safety and liability concerns it was decided that Hibben would no longer use it for transporting children or youth. It has since been sold.
Although the purchase of any church vehicle would normally fall under the Board of Trustees, The United Methodist Men (UMM) requested that they be allowed to take on the purchase of a bus as a UMM project. This request was granted.
The UMM took on this goal of purchasing a bus back in August 2001 by establishing a bus committee and initiated two fund raisers, an annual Pumpkin Patch and Oyster Roast. As reported in the February 2002 issue of Hibben's newsletter, the bus committee started its search for a suitable bus in January 2002 and projected that Hibben would have a bus sitting in the parking lot by April 2002. The committee soon found that its projection was slightly off base.
Although committee members viewed a number of 25 passenger commercial buses in February and were ready to purchase one, it was discovered that we could not use a commercial type bus to pick up or drop off children or youth at schools. South Carolina State law says that we must use a certified "School Bus" for that purpose. So, it was back to the drawing board. After this law was explained to the UMM and the Administrative Board, the committee was directed to pursue the purchase of a 20 to 24 passenger school bus with "activity" type seats suitable for carrying adults, youth and children.
Committee members were able to view a Blue Bird 14 passenger school bus and an 18 passenger Thomas school bus in Columbia. The 14 passenger Blue Bird met all of our requirements except for total seating capacity. Since we wanted to stick with a minibus configuration for ease of operation, the choices were limited to only two other manufacturers which produced 20 passenger school minibuses. Both of these companies (U.S. Bus and Girardin) were contacted, but they were never able to show us an actual bus with the activity type seats. One of the committee's original requirements was that no bus would be considered unless committee members could actually view it. It wasn't possible to determine if these two buses had adequate leg room with the information provided by the manufacturers.
After much thought and discussion, it was finally decided that Hibben's needs could not be filled with just one bus. So, the decision was reached to take a leap of faith and purchase one 14 passenger certified school bus and one 25 passenger commercial bus. The UMM subsequently placed orders in June 2002 for two buses which they felt best suited all of Hibben's transportation needs. Our 25 Passenger Glaval bus arrived on 8 August and our 14 passenger Blue Bird bus arrived 26 October 2002.
The original need to replace the old non-conforming 15 passenger van was met by purchasing the Blue Bird school bus. This bus would allow Hibben to comply with all state and federal laws governing the transportation of primary and secondary school children to and from area schools. Although its seating capacity is similar to the 15 passenger van, it offers more headroom, a center aisle, overhead storage and much more comfortable seating than our previous van. More importantly, it is a very safe vehicle.
An added benefit of the 14 Passenger bus is that it does not require the driver to have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). The law states that a CDL is required when driving a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more persons (including the operator). This means that anyone in our congregation with a standard driver’s license can drive it upon meeting certain requirements outlined in Hibben's Vehicle Use Policy. Based on state law, the 25 passenger bus requires the driver to have a CDL.
Total cost of the two buses was $91,000. Many thanks to all the individuals and groups who have taken part in the many fund raising efforts.
Both buses were white with red striping & accents and black lettering. The lettering is important because we wanted the buses to serve as rolling billboards! A number of color photographs of both the interior and exterior of these buses can be seen on this page.
In 2007, it was decided that the 25 passenger commercial bus was no longer needed by Hibben and was sold to another Methodist church in the Charleston area.