Committee advances bill allowing non-CDL drivers to transport students on certain school buses

The Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee moved a bill alleviating the pressure on schools to hire drivers with commercial driver’s licenses to transport students on nine-seat passenger buses.

Under the bill (A3565), sponsored by Assemblymen Sean Kean and Edward Thomson, a driver with a valid non-commercial basic driver’s license who has completed certain training can transport schoolchildren on a school bus that seats nine or fewer students.

“This is another tool to address the shortage in bus drivers that districts across the state are facing,” Kean (R-Monmouth) said. “These smaller vehicles used to transport just a few schoolchildren should not require the same extensive CDL training that full-sized school bus drivers need. Our bill provides school districts more flexibility without compromising safety so that students can get to where they need to go.”

In the beginning of the school year, districts were alternating routes and schedules to accommodate the bus driver shortage and even offering parents money to drive their kids to school. Students who managed to get on a bus often had to endure hours-long delays.

“Meeting the needs of students and families who require transportation has been a challenge for schools in New Jersey, which is why we need to pass legislation that makes common sense accommodations,” Thomson (R-Monmouth) said. “Our bill makes it easier for schools to take a small group of kids to an activity or program while CDL drivers are assigned to buses with 50-plus students.”

Currently, all school bus drivers must pass the written and skills tests required for a CDL and get school bus and passenger endorsements from the Department of Education.

Other attempts to address the bus driver shortages this year included suspending the “under the hood” portion of the school bus licensing test for the first three months of 2022. The Motor Vehicle Commission also expedited CDL testing for school bus driver candidates, prioritized the issuance and renewal of CDLs, and offered weekly bulk CDL skills tests in coordination with various driving schools.

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