Maryland and New York are taking steps to address the nation’s school bus driver shortage, calling for increased driver testing and expanding outreach to current commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders.
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan has directed the state’s Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) to expedite testing and credentials for school bus drivers across the state.
Prior to the start of the 2021-22 school year, MDOT MVA began reaching out to school districts statewide to help streamline appointment scheduling for bus driver trainees, according to a news release from Hogan’s office.
On Sept. 25, the MDOT MVA plans to host a "Bus Drivers’ Day," offering scheduled appointments at six of its branch offices.
“We are grateful to all of the CDL drivers who are willing to step up and serve as school bus drivers,” Hogan said in the release. “I have directed MVA to take additional steps to address a critical need in the industry, and at the same time assist schools, parents, and students across the state.”
MDOT MVA is currently offering CDL appointments at levels consistent with pre-pandemic availability. To increase accessibility, the agency recently launched a new function in its central scheduling system that allows users to make same-day appointments based on cancellations. The administration also added a new appointment category for CDL retakes to provide additional convenience.
Meanwhile, in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced a multi-agency plan to address the state’s driver shortage. The plan includes short-term steps to remove barriers and recruit traditional and non-traditional CDL holders, expand CDL testing opportunities, and enhance processes all designed to get more drivers behind the wheel.
"Our schools and public health officials have moved mountains to ensure our children receive an in-person education this year, and we are leaving no stone unturned to make sure schools have adequate bus service to bring students to school and back," Hochul said in a statement.
The governor directed state agencies to utilize a multi-organizational recruitment effort to persuade more than 550,000 of the state's current CDL holders to become school bus drivers. Interested drivers will be surveyed and their information then shared with local school districts.
In addition, the state will target currently unemployed CDL holders through the New York Department of Labor and work with partners in law enforcement, firefighters, military, and other organizations that have trained personnel who are interested in becoming school bus drivers.
"While the shortage of school bus drivers is not unique to New York State, I have directed state agencies to utilize creative approaches and use every tool at their disposal to help districts affected by the bus driver shortage, so we can bring in as many qualified bus drivers as possible as quickly as possible,” Hochul added.
The New York Department of Motor Vehicles is also expediting the process for CDL completion by removing the 14-day waiting period between the permit test and road tests. Additionally, the state is opening up several new CDL driver testing sites in partnership with local community organizations.
As for long-term solutions to the driver shortage, Hochul said New York is looking at alternative licensing entities and expanded partnerships with other state agencies to help train and recruit drivers. She also said the state is encouraging schools to consider offering signing and retention bonuses and the expansion of benefits to drivers with the use of federal funds.