NAPT Spearheads Coalition Recommending Policy Changes to Address Driver Shortage

NAPT and more than a dozen other K-12 organizations recently sent a letter to US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttegieg conveying four specific recommendations for changes in federal policy to help abridge the current shortage of school bus drivers.

Why it matters: NAPT and the other organizations believe the changes “will provide meaningful relief and purposefully and safely expand the school bus driver labor supply”.

The recommendations:

Delay by one year the start date for DOT’s Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) Regulations

The ELDT regulations are set to take effect on February 7, 2022 and will ratchet up the requirements of the CDL for all new/first time drivers at the exact same time that policy should instead be focused on eliminating barriers to driving school buses.

Modify Entry Level Commercial Driver License (CDL) Requirements for School Bus Drivers

After passing a physical exam, a potential school bus driver must pass a written test that evaluates general knowledge of CDL rules. After passing the written exam, a candidate receives a Commercial Learners Permit (CLP), which is valid for up to 180 days. The CLP enables the CDL candidate to operate a commercial motor vehicle while supervised by a valid CDL holder. The CLP holder is not permitted to take the CDL driving skills test for a minimum of 14 days after obtaining the CLP, during which time she/he is theoretically learning how to drive the commercial vehicle.

The coalition encouraged DOT to:
1. Extend the duration of the CLP to 365 days when the candidate is hired to drive a school bus.
2. Enable the CLP holder to take the CDL driving skills test in 7 days after obtaining a CLP.
3. Enable the CLP holder to operate a school district-approved vehicle (with a GVWR less than a traditional Type C or Type D school bus) without a CDL holder riding along.

Allow Third Parties to Administer Both Knowledge and Skills Test for CDL
The coalition asked US DOT to revise its guidance to state Departments of Motor Vehicles to allow third party administration of both the CDL knowledge and skills test, saying “The historic concern with reliance on third-party testing has been messaged as quality control and fraud prevention. But, the inability of states to partner with third parties for both the knowledge and skills portion of the testing creates unnecessary friction in the pipeline of candidates. We are not discounting the concerns for quality control and fraud prevention, but instead are confident we can help you provide oversight of quality standards and provide appropriate guardrails.”

One-Year Exemption to Social Security Earning Limitation
Under current Social Security Administration policy, any retiree that collects social security payments before the age of 67 sees a subsequent reduction in social security benefits, where they lose one dollar of SSI for every two dollars they earn over $18, 960.  The coalition urged DOT “to coordinate with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to raise the income cap to $23,500”, to incentivize eligible candidates in the pool of potential candidates to work part-time without facing financial penalty.

What’s next? NAPT is going to send a memo this week to its state association affiliates encouraging them to get involved in the effort. Stay tuned for more.