The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is giving states the option to waive part of the commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test in hopes of making it easier for states and municipalities to recruit new school bus drivers.
“This federal waiver will help communities that are short on school bus drivers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a news release. “By allowing states to focus on the testing requirements that are critical to safety, we will get additional, qualified drivers behind the wheel to get kids to school safely.”’
The waiver from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in coordination with the U.S. Department of Education, allows driver applicants to skip the portion of the skills test requiring them to identify “under-the-hood” engine components. All other elements of the written and road test must be completed.
“This Administration is listening to the needs of school communities and remains committed to making sure schools are open safely for in-person learning full time,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We’ve heard from educators and parents that labor shortages, particularly of bus drivers, are a roadblock to keeping kids in schools. Today’s announcement will give states the flexibility they need to help increase the pool of drivers, who are a key part of the school community, and get kids to school safely each day where students learn best. And American Rescue Plan funds can be used to hire these critical staff, including offering increased compensation or other incentives to recruit and retain staff.”
“Our nation depends on having enough qualified school bus drivers to support our children’s education. Temporarily giving states the option to modify the school bus test, widens the pool of possible drivers to fill this critical role without compromising our vital safety standards,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi.
School transportation associations, states and elected officials have pointed to the need to identify “under-the-hood” components as an unnecessary hurdle for those interested in becoming a school bus driver.
Drivers receiving a CDL under this temporary waiver are permitted to operate intrastate school buses only; they are not authorized to operate trucks, motorcoaches, or any other type of commercial motor vehicle requiring a CDL.
The FMCSA waiver, which became effective January 3, 2022, expires March 31, 2022.