U.S. DOE Announces Joint Temporary Action with U.S. DOT to Help Address School Bus Driver Labor Shortage

The U.S. Department of Transportation in coordination with the U.S. Department of Education has announced that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is giving states the option of waiving the portion of the commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test that requires applicants to identify the “under the hood” engine components. All other components of the written and road test will remain.

This announcement aims to alleviate some of the labor shortage challenges schools are facing and is one of many resources the U.S. Department of Education continues to provide to safely keep schools open for full-time, in-person learning.

“This Administration is listening to the needs of school communities and remains committed to making sure schools are open safely for in-person learning full time,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We’ve heard from educators and parents that labor shortages, particularly of bus drivers, are a roadblock to keeping kids in schools. Today’s announcement will give states the flexibility they need to help increase the pool of drivers, who are a key part of the school community, and get kids to school safely each day where students learn best. And American Rescue Plan funds can be used to hire these critical staff, including offering increased compensation or other incentives to recruit and retain staff.”

“This federal waiver will help states that are short on bus drivers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “By allowing states to focus on the testing requirements that are critical to safety, we will get additional, qualified drivers behind the wheel to get kids to school safely.”

Drivers receiving a CDL under this temporary waiver are permitted to operate intrastate school buses only; they are not authorized to operate trucks, motorcoaches, or any other type of commercial motor vehicle requiring a CDL.

The FMCSA waiver, which became effective Jan. 3, 2022, expires March 31, 2022. Read the full release from the U.S. Department of Education here.

Prepare to Become a School Bus Driver in Maine:

  1. Contact your local school district, Career and Technical Sites/Center, Adult Education Programs, or all to ask when the next School Bus Driver class begins. Some local classes are free.
  2. Study Section 10, School Buses, of the Maine Commercial Driver License Manual: https://www.maine.gov/sos/bmv/licenses/cdlmanual.pdf
  3. Call Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles about commercial driver license (CDL) requirements, application, exam schedules, or extent of the Federal waiver. The direct contact for Maine BMV’s CDL Examination Section is 207-624-9000 ext, 52122. Between January 3, 2022 and March 31, 2022, the Federal waiver impacts a portion, not all, of the overall pre-trip inspection exam requirement.

Beginning February 7, 2022, Maine residents can search the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Training Provider Registry to find local CDL school bus trainers in Maine and your community.