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New Legislation Hopes to Address School Bus Driver Shortage

In the Community: From the Office of Congressman Joe Morelle

Photo by Nick Quan on Unsplash

New outlined legislation will hopefully address school bus driver shortage impacting school districts in our community and across the country.

Congressman Joe Morelle recently introduced the Get Our Kids to School Act takes steps to eliminate onerous licensure requirements, making them more accessible to pursue while maintaining strict safety standards.  

“With the back-to-school season quickly approaching, this is a critical time to mitigate the bus driver shortage and ensure we have the resources to safely transport children to school,” Morelle said.

“That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to allow more people to apply for bus driver positions while maintaining essential safety standards.”

School districts across Monroe County have faced a shortage of bus drivers, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021-22 school year saw bus driver shortages so severe that some local schools were forced to cancel classes, while others have had to change bus routes and lengthen the time students are on the vehicles. Earlier this year, the New York State School Bus Contractors Association estimated the number of bus drivers to be 15% to 20% below full staffing levels. 

Morelle said this will ease the burden on communities, provide parents with much-needed peace of mind and lay the groundwork for a successful school year for everyone.”  

“The proposed Get Our Kids to School Act will allow our districts the time necessary to attract, hire and retain qualified bus drivers while maintaining the high safety standards of transportation for our students,” said Monroe County School Board Association Executive Director Amy Thomas.

In September 2021, Congressman Morelle sent a letter urging United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Buttigieg to allow school bus drivers to forgo the repair-oriented, under-the-hood vehicle testing requirements of the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), which are unnecessary for school bus drivers and cited as one of the greatest barriers to hiring new operators. Forgoing this requirement does not impact any safety standards as drivers complete daily pre-trip inspections, have spare buses, and readily available mechanical support—and in the event of a break down, school bus drivers cannot leave students unattended and are therefore unable to go under the hood to repair their own bus anyway. In January 2022, USDOT announced they will allow states to apply for this this waiver—however, the brief time period during which the waiver was open did not allow the majority of states enough time to take advantage of this change.   

“We depend on our drivers to safely and thoughtfully transport the greatest gift in any community: our children. Congressman Morelle’s legislation would help ensure that we are able to fully staff our teams and continue to provide this service that is so essential to families and the efficient operation of our schools,” Dr. Kevin McGowan, Superintendent, Brighton Central School District said.

McGowan said the proposed legislation that could help ease the driver shortage is likely to have a meaningful and significant impact on a large concern for schools locally and throughout the state.

The Get Our Kids to School Act would extend this waiver for a period of one year, allowing more states to pursue the waiver and get drivers in the pipeline. The bill would also require the Secretary of Transportation to seek comments on the benefits of permanently granting this waiver.