Established public carriers—trains, buses, and commercial airlines—are the safest and most comfortable way for groups to travel. Chartered buses usually are the most economical transportation for groups of 20 or more. It may be necessary for small groups to travel in private automobiles; however, the use of chartered equipment from established rail, bus, and airline companies is strongly recommended.


General guidelines for automobile travel are as follows:

  1. Seat belts are required for all occupants.
  2. All drivers must have a valid driver's license that has not been suspended or revoked for any reason. If the vehicle to be used is designed to carry more than 15 people, including the driver (more than 10 people, including the driver, in California), the driver must have a commercial driver's license.
  3. An adult leader (at least 21 years of age) must be in charge and accompany the group.
  4. The driver must be currently licensed and at least 18 years of age. However, there is a youth participant exception: When traveling to an area, regional, or national activity or any Explorer event under the leadership of an adult (at least 21 years of age) outing leader, a youth participant at least 16 years of age may be a driver, subject to the following conditions:
    1. Six months' driving experience as a licensed driver (time on a learner's permit or equivalent is not to be counted)
    2. No record of accidents or moving violations
    3. Parental permission granted to the leader, driver, and riders
  5. Passenger cars or station wagons may be used for transporting passengers, but passengers should not ride on the rear deck of station wagons.
  6. Trucks may not be used for transporting passengers except in the cab.
  7. All driving, except on short trips, should be done in daylight.
  8. All vehicles must be covered by automobile liability insurance with limits that meet or exceed requirements of the state in which the vehicle is licensed. It is recommended that coverage limits are at least $100,000 combined single limit. Any vehicle designed to carry 10 or more passengers is required to have limits of $100,000/$500,000/$100,000 or a $500,000 combined single limit.
  9. Do not exceed the speed limit.
  10. Do not travel in a convoy.
  11. Driving time is limited to a maximum of 10 hours and must be interrupted by frequent rest, food, and recreation stops. If there is only one driver, the driving time should be reduced, and stops should be made more frequently.

Campers, Trailers, and Trucks

The beds of trucks or trailers must never be used for carrying passengers. Outing permits will not be issued for any trip that involves carrying passengers in a truck except in the cab. (One exception is if the truck is a part of a float in a parade; there the youth may ride on back but only while in the parade, not to and from the site)


A driver of a bus or any vehicle designed to carry more than 15 people (including the driver) is required to have a commercial driver's license.

The safety rules for automobiles apply to bus travel, with the exception of seat belts. In special cases, chartered buses may travel more than nine hours a day. On certain occasions, night travel by public carrier bus is appropriate. It should be considered permissible when conditions are such that rest and sleep for passengers are possible with a reasonable degree of comfort. However, night travel on buses should not be planned for two successive nights.

All buses must be covered by liability insurance with limits equal to or greater than $500,000.


Observe these safety guidelines for train travel:

  1. Don't lean out of windows or doors.
  2. When changing trains, don't cross railroad tracks without permission.
  3. Stay out of vestibules. Keep the railroad car door closed.
  4. In case of illness or accident, see a train official who can arrange for medical help.
  5. On overnight trips, one leader should be on watch duty at all times.


In national parks and some other areas of the country, special boat and canoe regulations are in force, and special boat permits are required for cruising or recreation. Follow these safety precautions:

  1. All outing leaders must have current training in Safety Afloat.
  2. U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) recommends and Learning for Life regulations require that an approved USCG personal flotation device (PFD) be worn by each participant using watercraft in an aquatics activity. Types II and III PFDs are recommended for activity afloat.
  3. Rowboats or canoes carrying passengers should not be towed behind motorboats or sailboats.
  4. Use of canoes should be restricted to swimmers who have satisfactorily demonstrated their ability in launching, landing, and paddling a canoe and in handling a swamped canoe. Canoeists should be taught the proper procedure for staying afloat if the canoe capsizes or is swamped.
  5. Small boats, whether under sail or power, used for pleasure or ferry purposes, must have a minimum capacity of 10 cubic feet per person. Boats propelled by hand power—such as rowboats—and used for pleasure purposes only must provide a minimum of 7 cubic feet per person. (Lifeboats on passenger-carrying vessels propelled by power must comply with the 10-cubic-foot law.)
  6. Provisions also should be made on all boats under sail or power for a sufficient quantity or supply of oars and rowlocks or paddles to be used in case of emergency. Fire-fighting equipment and lights also must be carried aboard.
  7. Bilges of gasoline-powered boats should be kept free from gasoline and oil at all times. Thorough ventilation, either natural or by blower, is necessary to dispel gasoline vapor.
  8. Motorized personal watercraft, such as jet skis, are not authorized for use.
  9. To prevent ignition by static electricity during refueling, establish complete metallic contact between the nozzle of the filling hose and the tank opening or filling pipe, and maintain contact until gasoline has ceased to flow. If a funnel is used, establish contact with the funnel and the opening in the tank. All passengers should be ashore during refueling.

For regulations that govern cruises by private powerboat or sailboat, refer to Motorboat Regulations, published by the U.S. Coast Guard.


Air travel is permitted as follows:

  1. Learning for Life and Exploring participants may travel on any flight scheduled by a commercial airline.
  2. The Learning for Life Flying Permit Application (see sample in the appendix) is required for all Learning for Life flying activities except for commercial flights. The local Learning for Life office reviews and approves the flying permit just as it would an outing permit. The Parent/Guardian Consent Form (see sample in the appendix) is also required. Groups/posts should attach the signed consent form to the Learning for Life Flying Permit Application and keep a copy of the signed consent forms in their files.
  3. Flying in hang gliders, ultra-light airplanes, experimental-class aircraft, and hot-air balloons (whether or not they are tethered); parachuting, and flying in aircraft as part of a search-and-rescue mission are unauthorized activities.
  4. Airplane travelers are cautioned about what they pack in their luggage. In flight, variations in temperature and air pressure can cause some hazardous materials to leak or ignite. Included in the category of hazardous materials that should not be packed in luggage are matches or lighters; flammable liquids and gases; signal flares and other explosives; and bleaches, aerosols, mercury, and solvents containing dangerous chemicals that can cause toxic fumes and corrosion.

Outing Permits

If a group/post plans a trip within 500 miles of the home base, it is important that the unit obtain a local Learning for Life outing permit. A national Learning for Life outing permit is required for trips in excess of 500 miles from home or outside the continental United States. (See samples of both in the appendix.)

Outing permits have become recognized by national parks, military institutions, and other organizations as proof that an activity has been well-planned and organized and is under capable and qualified leadership. These organizations may require the outing permit for entry.

Most short, in-town trips of a few hours do not require an outing permit; however, it is recommended that groups/posts obtain permission slips from parents and follow all requirements as found in the outing permit.

Commercial Driver's License Compliance

The following questions and answers may help you understand how drivers fall into a category of private motor carriers that are subject to the commercial driver's license (CDL) rules:

  1. What is a "private motor carrier of passengers?"
    A private motor carrier of passengers does not offer transportation services for hire but (a) transports passengers in interstate (some state regulations apply to intrastate) commerce, and (b) uses a vehicle designed to carry more than 15 passengers, which includes the driver, or a vehicle that has a gross vehicular weight greater than 10,000 pounds.
  2. What are some examples of usage of a private motor carrier of passengers?
    Learning for Life groups/posts that use vehicles designed to carry more than 15 passengers, such as buses, is one example. The driver in this case is often a volunteer driver of a bus that is owned or leased. This category is referred to as nonbusiness private motor carrier of passengers and is probably the most frequent usage subject to the rule.
  3. What about the use of school buses?
    In most states, Learning for Life groups that contract with schools to use buses fall into the for-hire category, and the school is subject to the federal safety regulations. Since public school transportation vehicles are not subject to CDL rules when transporting students, the school may not realize that the for-hire regulations apply. The consequence could have a ruinous effect on a planned Learning for Life activity.
  4. How will the rule be enforced?
    The primary enforcement activity of both categories, business and nonbusiness, is the driver/vehicle inspection. Inspections can be performed anywhere on the road or at destination points such as parks, sporting complexes, etc. Only the business category is subject to compliance reviews and record keeping, but if serious safety problems are identified in either category of vehicle usage, the operation of the vehicle is subject to being discontinued.
  5. Are Learning for Life operations subject to the drug and alcohol testing portion of the rule?
    As of January 1, 1996, all operators of vehicles who are required to have a commercial driver's license are subject to drug and alcohol testing. There are no exemptions for the nonbusiness private motor carrier of passenger category, which includes Learning for Life volunteer drivers. Local Learning for Life executives should establish guidelines for volunteer drivers based on the requirements of the state where located.
  6. How do Learning for Life officials obtain the Department of Transportation (DOT) identification number required for all vehicles that are subject to the CDL rule?
    Form MCS-150 should be requested from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Office of Motor Carriers, in the Learning for Life official's state. The completed form should then be sent to the FHWA's office in Washington, D.C., where a DOT number will be assigned. This number, as well as the name, city, and state, should be displayed on the side of the vehicle. An education and technical assistance package can be obtained from the local FHWA office.

Safety First Learning for Life Guidelines

Copyright © 2002 by Learning for Life