Safe Boarding of Ambulatory and Non-Ambulatory Passengers

Published: November 24, 2020

As a driver, it is your primary responsibility to pick up and deliver your passengers safely to their destination. This begins with the passenger boarding your vehicle.

When boarding ambulatory passengers, those capable of walking and using the steps to enter the vehicle, follow these steps:

  1. Engage the four-way flasher prior to stopping.
  2. When possible, all boarding should be done at approved passenger stops.
  3. Pull your vehicle parallel six to eight inches from the curb. This will allow the passenger to step from the curb onto the step without stepping down to the street level.
  4. In the event that you cannot stop within six to eight inches from the curb, remain at least three feet from the curb.
  5. Always evaluate the physical capabilities of your boarding passengers. If there is any doubt, drivers should get out of their seat and assist the passenger from behind going up the steps when boarding and from in front coming down the steps when deboarding.
  6. If boarding or discharging passengers on streets that do not have a bus stop, always choose an area free of any hazards such as water, potholes, tripping hazards, ice, etc. From the street, the first boarding step will be rather high for many passengers. In this case, you should assist with boarding and deboarding as described in step five.
  7. When boarding in a parking lot, take extreme care to avoid moving traffic and cars backing out of parking spaces.
  8. Once onboard, you should remain stopped until passengers are safely in their seats; accelerate and brake smoothly at all times.
  9. Drivers should report any unsafe bus stops and hazardous conditions along their route that may interfere with safe boarding and deboarding of passengers as well as the condition of step treads and hand rails on their vehicles.
  10. Always remember that many injury claims are the result of boarding and deboarding vehicles; take extreme caution in the safe board and deboarding of passengers.

Follow these steps when arriving to board a passenger using a mobility device (wheelchairs, scooters, etc.):

  1. Stop on level ground with room for the platform to deploy.
  2. Put the vehicle in park, set the parking brake and turn on the four-way flashers.
  3. Deploy the lift while standing on the ground next to the vehicle (or from the driver’s seat, depending on the vehicle).
  4. If the passenger uses a power wheelchair, disengage the clutches that transfer power to the wheels. This eliminates the possibility of the passenger steering their power wheelchair off the lift or into any obstacle on the vehicle.
  5. Depending on the type of vehicle used: (a) Side loading van—back the passenger onto the platform; (b) Rear loading van or ramps—push the passenger forward onto the platform.
  6. Make sure the mobility device brakes are set.
  7. Ask the passenger to place their hands on their lap and make sure their feet are clear of the toe-guard flap to avoid any injury while loading.
  8. If the lift has securement handles, ask the passenger to take hold of them.
  9. Always inform the passenger before the lift is engaged.
  10. Hold onto the mobility device when raising and lowering the lift.
  11. Once the lift platform is level with the vehicle, the bus operator has two options for assisting the rider with the mobility device on how to enter the bus. If the driver is capable of holding onto the mobility device and guiding the device into the vehicle—never pushing—the driver may do so by disengaging the brakes, and guiding the mobility device and passenger completely inside the vehicle without losing contact with the device. In the event that the operator is not able to guide the mobility device completely into the vehicle from an outside position, the driver would leave the passenger on the lift with the device’s brakes engaged, go inside the bus, have the passenger disengage the brakes, and guide the mobility device and passenger into the vehicle.

National RTAP’s Safety Training and Rural Transit (START) Training, available at


This article was published in the RTAP December 2019 newsletter, published by RLS & Associates.

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