Rich Kelly, counsel for the NSTA, urged states to adopt the "under the hood" waiver: "If this helps one contractor, it helps every contractor."  -  Photo: NSTA

Rich Kelly, counsel for the NSTA, urged states to adopt the "under the hood" waiver: "If this helps one contractor, it helps every contractor."

Photo: NSTA

Twice so far, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has extended the option for states to waive the “under the hood” portion of the commercial driver’s license test for school bus drivers.

The latest waiver runs out at the end of September, after peak hiring season for school bus drivers passes. Curt Macysyn, executive director of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), said at this week’s annual meeting in Niagara Falls that the group might ask for a third waiver.

But what happens after that?

The next step, according to lawyer and NSTA counsel Rich Kelly, is a 5-year exemption that the NSTA requested in June. The proposal is expected to go into the Federal Register for comment and, possibly, disposition by the end of the year.

So far, Kelly told attendees in Niagara Falls, eight states have adopted the waiver:

  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Florida

Through informal feedback, the NSTA has reported that 100 school bus drivers got their CDL under the waiver. From that, the organization extrapolated that 7,000 students have bus transportation thanks to the “under the hood” waiver.

Why haven’t more states jumped at the opportunity?

Time, Kelly said. State transportation officials don’t want to try to work within a 90-day window. They want more time.

If the NSTA gets its way, the exemption could go on much longer.

“Five years is more time,” Kelly said. “Are you ready now?”

Some school bus operations also show reluctance because the waiver only allows for intrastate transportation, which isn’t beneficial to drivers who cross state lines with students.

“Don’t think small,” Kelly urged the crowd. “If this helps one contractor, it helps every contractor.”

Should the 5-year exemption kick in, the association also would advocate for making the “under the hood” exception permanent through legislation, which could be designed to require implementation by state driver license authorities.

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