The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is once again extending the “under-the-hood” waiver for the portion of the commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test that covers pre-trip vehicle inspection skills.
The waiver, originally issued in January and last set to expire on June 30, now is in effect until Sept. 30 based on a request from the National School Transportation Association. The NSTA sought the new extension due to the summer months serving as the most active period for recruiting new school bus drivers.
The FMCSA advisory states: “The school bus driver shortage remains an ongoing concern. NSTA notes that the most intensive school bus driver recruitment efforts occur during July through September, and requests a waiver through peak recruitment season. Industry representatives and states report that the engine compartment component of the CDL skills test has negatively affected their ability to attract school bus driver applicants. Ensuring the safe and reliable transportation of children to and from school is FMCSA’s paramount concern. FMCSA issues this waiver in response to the unique but nonemergency circumstances resulting from the existing school bus driver shortage.”
The engine compartment component of the test, now waived, includes:
- Oil level.
- Coolant level.
- Power steering/fluid/belt/gear.
- Water pump belt/gear.
- Alternator belt/gear.
- Air compressor belt/gear or hydraulic master cylinder (as applicable).
- Leaks and hoses.
As in the past, the waiver applies only to bus drivers seeking licenses to drive intrastate.
Waiver extension appreciation
Carina Noble, NSTA president and National Express’s senior vice president for communications and external affairs, described the extension as “welcome relief during our peak driver hiring season.”
“We appreciate the support of FMCSA for their willingness to work with NSTA on solutions to the critical school bus driver shortage,” Noble said.
NSTA Executive Director Curt Macysyn agreed: “NSTA believes that the timing of the waiver will assist contractors to recruit drivers throughout the summer. We believe that to ultimately solve this vexing problem, we will need to attract more driver candidates into the system, and this represents a good first step to attain that goal.”