Indiana-based Student Transport, a new company with school bus drivers on staff, is offering training tools to help school districts and school bus companies get new drivers behind the wheel faster.
In particular, the company aims to help combat the national bus driver shortage by reducing the timeline to prepare new drivers for the commercial driver’s license (CDL) test to acquire their Class B License with Passenger (P) or School (S) endorsements, Nelson Smith, one of the company’s co-founders and current CEO, told School Bus Fleet.
Student Transport’s first product offering, the Class B School Bus Program, aims to get that process down to two to three weeks. It employs PowerPoint presentations and videos to methodically walk the trainee through topics such as the pre-trip and brake test processes.
“We break the studying and training into manageable sections to keep trainees from getting overwhelmed and frustrated,” Smith said. “We want them to maintain a comfortable degree of confidence.”
The program is a cloud-based system that enables directors, managers, or trainers to share a link with trainees so they can access the program on any personal device or cell phone, with the goals of making it mobile, flexible, and fast. Trainers can monitor progress, keep trainees on track, and teach behind-the-wheel skills.
“Trainees can study or practice from anywhere and are not tied to the bus garage or trainer availability,” Smith said. “The expectation is they show up for training sessions prepared and make progress every day.”
With the Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) compliance deadline of Feb. 7, 2022 approaching, Student Transport is working to help pupil transporters get ready to meet the requirements in time with an expected rollout of ELDT programs by August.
“Our program will be user-friendly to help [operations] be compliant to the new standard, but not overly burdened either,” Smith said.
The first-generation program will consist of PowerPoint presentations and videos to be housed and administered by the operation. Student Transport expects to have a fully online version available before the end of 2021.
Any operation that purchases the Class B School Bus Program before the end of June will receive the ELDT training program at no additional charge.
In response to high demand, Student Transport will also launch a commercial license permit study course this summer to help prepare driver candidates for state driver licensing agency tests.
“It is a request I get every week when talking to transportation directors,” Smith said.
The idea for Student Transport was born after a group of school bus drivers — including Smith — in Northeastern Indiana in 2018 were asked to train incoming drivers at their school corporation. Since the corporation didn’t have training tools or a process in place, they created one.
The drivers worked with their local CDL test site to hone the training material and add tools while training 37 drivers over three years.
Smith’s background also lends itself to running a training program based on his 20 years of experience in management at medical device companies, which are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which he said is helpful to ensuring ELDT compliance.
Smith started driving a school bus in 2014 while running his own restaurant.
“I fell in love with everything about it, so it became a new home,” he said.
Learn more about Student Transport’s training programs by sending request for a webinar.