While there is a national shortage of school bus drivers, state and federal authorities maintain it is actually the right time to put stricter regulations in place because of the outreach to younger candidates for jobs.
Laura Dillon, a former school bus driver who is now a state program specialist with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said outreach is happening at trade schools and high schools. People without experience driving buses — or even cars — are being sought, and they need to build skills.
“It’s a really good time to do this,” said Dillon.
Dillon was one of a panel of experts speaking at a recent NYSUT online workshop to inform bus drivers about new regulations and provide them with resources for information.
“We realize the stress, pressure and shortages you’ve been under,” said Ron Gross, NYSUT second vice president. “We appreciate what you do.” He said that NYSUT’s School-Related Professionals bus drivers are joined by mechanics, dispatchers, monitors and more as “critical components” of pupil transportation.
Some upgrades to the requirements for the commercial driver’s license will take effect as soon as Feb. 7, 2022, when new applicants, or those who are upgrading, will have to take entry level driver training and then a skilled road test. The requirements encompass mandatory theory (knowledge) and behind-the-wheel skill.
The driver training must be undertaken at a certified training program listed with the Trainer Provider Registry. It can be a private trainer, training company, or through a school district.
Laura Dillon, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, on Thursday's webinar.
Drivers also need to adhere to requirements with the Drug and Alcohol Clearing House. A federal, online clearinghouse was set up in 2020 to track drug and alcohol violations of all CDL holders, including school bus drivers. Employers are required to use the database to acquire and report information about violations for both prospective and current employees. The database is to make it simpler for employers to do checks already required by state law.
For more information, you can check out NYSUT's Fact Sheet on this topic.
Tracey Wheaton, motor vehicles program manager for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, explained another new change to workshop attendees — medical certifications will no longer be allowed to be submitted in paper form.
Local union presidents can request the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute booklet, 2022 New York State Laws and Regulations for School Bus Drivers, Monitors and Attendants for the members in their NYSUT local with those job titles. There is no cost to locals, but supplies are limited. Order now and be up to date on the current regulations. NYSUT local presidents may order by emailing email@example.com.
Visit www.nysut.org/srp for links to fact sheets and other information.