WASHINGTON, D.C. — School bus drivers have been granted an extra year to earn an "S" endorsement on their CDL.
Congress included a provision in the recent transportation bill that extended the "S" deadline from Sept. 30 of this year to the same date in 2006.
President Bush signed the bill into law Aug. 10 in Montgomery, Ill.
The National School Transportation Association cautioned that some states might have already added the 2005 deadline to their statutes. Under those circumstances, the extension would not be valid in that state.
The congressional action came in response to appeals from state agencies that were struggling to test all current drivers before the September deadline.
In related news, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ruled that mechanics and other drivers who only operate empty school buses don't need an "S" endorsement.
The agency issued regulatory guidance that reversed previous guidance on the "S" endorsement under CDL standards.
Suzanne Te Beau of the FMCSA wrote that only drivers who transport students to or from school or school-sponsored events in a school bus are required to have both the "P" (passenger) and "S" (school bus) endorsements.
For mechanics, drivers delivering buses from the manufacturer and others driving without passengers, only a "P" is required. Additionally, drivers transporting students and/or adults to and from events not sponsored by a school only need a "P."
However, individual states may impose more stringent rules by requiring an "S" for anyone who drives a school bus, regardless of whether there are passengers on board.
The "S" endorsement stems from the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. One section of the act directed the FMCSA to establish a special CDL endorsement for school bus drivers. The endorsement must include a driving skills test and a knowledge test that covers procedures for loading and unloading children, using emergency exits and traversing highway-rail grade crossings.