For two years, the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) has pushed for a commercial driver’s license specifically for school bus drivers. The temporary waiver of “under-the-hood” elements of the CDL test announced this week hews closer to that vision.
“Our organization has suggested for several years that CDL requirements should more closely align with responsibilities of the school bus driver position, and we have voiced that opinion to policy-makers frequently over the past two years,” said Curt Macysyn, executive director of the NSTA. “Given the pressing issue of the driver shortage, this news is certainly welcome relief. NSTA will continue to press for permanent changes to the CDL process, but clearly this represents a good first step.”
The waiver from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), as School Bus Fleet reported, allows drivers who use it to operate only intrastate school buses. If a CDL is acquired using this waiver, the driver isn’t authorized to operate trucks, motorcoaches, or any other type of commercial motor vehicle requiring a CDL. The waiver is currently set to expire on March 31.
Mike Martin, executive director and chief executive officer of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), shared optimism about the waiver.
“While the impact of this waiver remains to be seen, it is notably important that the (U.S. Department of Transportation) and its FMCSA have acknowledged one of several substantive differences in the core competencies required for someone to drive a student to school and those required to drive other vehicles,” Martin said. He expressed gratitude to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi for their support. “We hope they will continue to review and evaluate the other recommendations we and other industry representatives have made for their consideration.”
Ronna Weber, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), also praised the federal government’s action.
The association “appreciates the efforts of the Department of Education and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as the industry continues to grapple with the school bus driver shortage. The waiver opportunity is another tool in the toolbox for states as they look for ways to be proactive,” Weber said.