CDL Testing Waivers Address Shortage of School Bus Drivers in NJ

Economists are still trying to figure out the strange labor shortages that have been felt across the United States since 2020. A perfect storm of pandemic conditions, wage increases, and global inflation may be to blame for the shortages, but the reality of this situation is that it is having more than just an economic impact. Families across the country are feeling the effects of a shortage of school bus drivers, and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has taken notice.

On April 4, the MVC announced that a certain section of the Commercial Driver License (CDL) test, which is required for those who are interested in working as school bus drivers, will no longer be required thanks to a federal waiver. The specific section is known as the "under the hood" test component, and it is related to the engine inspection that CDL operators must complete before a trip.

The waiver was issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in March after the White House and the U.S. Department of Education acknowledged the school bus driver shortage earlier this year. The CDL candidates who benefit from this waiver, which should ostensibly last until the shortage has been resolved, would receive P and S endorsements as well as the K restriction upon passing the various tests.

While it is up to each state to enact the FMCSA waiver, the New Jersey MVC has decided to not only implement it but also eliminating the waiting period between written examination and skills testing, which usually lasts 14 days. What this means for prospective school bus drivers is that they can get their Commercial Learning Permit and spend only a few days practicing before they are able to complete their driving skills examination.

Waivers as Temporary Solutions

Both the FMCSA waiver and the elimination of a waiting period between CDL testing components is temporary; the former will be in effect through June 30 while the latter ends on May 31. It is too early to tell if these waivers will eventually require extensions.

Thus far in 2022, six states have opted to activate National Guard soldiers to work as temporary bus drivers and alleviate the shortage, and two of these states include New Jersey neighbors such as Pennsylvania and New York. Some school districts are offering nice hiring bonuses and packages as a means to entice prospective bus drivers, and this seems to be working in some parts of the U.S.

by admin on April 21, 2022