U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona addressed possible solutions to the nation's school bus driver shortage during a visit to Maine this week.
Cardona was joined by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree in his visit with local school bus drivers, trainers, and mechanics in Kennebunk.
Cindy Messier, Maine Regional School Unit 21's bus trainer, pointed to the new U.S. training manual for drivers--thicker than the previous edition--saying it intimidates recruits. According to Maine Public, Messier said the manual includes information that isn't pertinent to school bus drivers. Cardona later told reporters he wanted to find a way to address that.
Cardona touted the extension of the "under-the-hood" waiver as one way to help address the school bus driver shortage. Late last month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) extended the waiver for new school bus drivers seeking their commercial driver's license until June 30. It gave staes the option of waiving the portion of the CDL skills test that required school bus driver applicants to identify engine components. The 90-day waiver extension keeps at bay a potential barrier to entry for school districts and contractors trying to recruit new candidates into the pupil transportation industry. It still requires all other components of the CDL test and is restricted to drivers for intrastate use.
Cardona also pointed to ways states can use funds from the American Rescue Plan to address the driver shortage, which Maine has done.