Hochul announces plan to license more school bus drivers
Lauren Stanforth is reporting for the Times Union Gov. Kathy Hochul's office September 19, announced a multi-agency plan to get needed drivers into school buses statewide. The effort includes reaching out to already licensed commercial drivers to determine if there may be interest in driving for school districts and independent bus companies, as well as using Department of Labor information to recruit drivers who are currently unemployed. The state Department of Motor Vehicles is also expediting the process for CDL completion by removing the 14-day waiting period between the permit test and the road tests. The department will also work with county DMVs to increase capacity to administer written exams and road tests. It can normally take up to 12 weeks for a new candidate to be licensed to drive a bus. Hochul's office also said New York will open up new commercial driver testing sites by partnering with SUNY, the Thruway Authority, New York Racing Association and the Office of General Services to use large lots for the road test. For school staff who currently hold a commercial license, the state will set up expedited testing to get a permit to drive vans and buses temporarily. The shortage of bus drivers, which is part of overall employment shortages during the coronavirus pandemic, has greatly impacted some school districts. Hochul also encouraged schools "to pursue creative and innovative ways to offer a wide array of benefits for school bus drivers that were previously not considered," including signing and retention bonuses and expansion of benefits to the drivers. The governor's office said schools can use federal funds to provide those additional benefits, but stopped short of providing any details. Read the full story in the Times Union.