Bill would allow school districts to take the wheel in training bus drivers

A bill that would streamline the school bus driver training and licensure process was released from the Assembly transportation committee Thursday.

The bill (A3564), sponsored by LD 30 Assemblymen Ned Thomson and Sean Kean, would allow school districts to administer the commercial driver license exam and most motor vehicle services to become a school bus driver, coordinated by the Motor Vehicle Commission. Schools could provide applications for endorsements, process permit fees and identification verification, but candidates would still have to take the road test through the MVC.

“The government pandemic lockdowns exacerbated an already difficult situation for school districts looking to hire qualified school bus drivers,” Thomson (R-Monmouth) said. “Sean and I want to make it convenient for drivers to earn their CDLs and for districts to fill these slots while maintaining the strictest of standards to ensure our school children are in good hands.”

School bus drivers must be at least 21 years old and pass a plethora of written and skills tests, physical exams and background checks. The training from start to finish is more than two months.

More than 280 New Jersey’s 600 school districts own their own school bus fleets or augment them with contractors. Another 156 rely on bus contractors only.

“Few people really considered how critical bus drivers were to the smooth operation of schools and extracurricular activities until there was this shortage,” added Kean (R-Monmouth). “Students have missed class time because their bus is late, or doesn’t show up at all. Sports teams have had to forfeit games because they lacked transportation. Ned’s and my bill streamlines the process for drivers and districts, to alleviate this strain on everyone.”

The bill now goes to the speaker for further consideration.

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