State to assist in finding school bus drivers

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ALBANY – Governor Kathy Hochul Sunday announced a multi-agency plan to address the school bus driver shortage affecting schools across the state. The plan includes recruitment efforts and additional testing opportunities for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders.

“Our schools and public health officials have moved mountains to ensure our children receive an in-person education this year, and we are leaving no stone unturned to make sure schools have adequate bus service to bring students to school and back,” Governor Hochul said. “While the shortage of school bus drivers is not unique to New York State, I have directed state agencies to utilize creative approaches and use every tool at their disposal to help districts affected by the bus driver shortage, so we can bring in as many qualified bus drivers as possible as quickly as possible.”

Governor Hochul directed state agencies to utilize a multi-organizational recruitment effort to persuade CDL drivers to become school bus drivers. Interested drivers will be surveyed and their information then shared with local school districts that are seeking drivers. The schools can work through these lists to recruit interested drivers in their area. In addition, the state will target currently unemployed drivers through the Department of Labor. The state will also work with partners in law enforcement, firefighters, military, and other organizations that have trained drivers in order to find more individuals interested in becoming school bus drivers.

Those who are interested in obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License can find information here.

Additionally, DMV is enhancing and expediting the process for CDL completion by removing the 14-day waiting period between the permit test and the road tests. Through enhanced cooperation with county-run DMVs, the state will also help to increase capacity to administer written exams and road tests.

The State is opening up new CDL Driver Testing sites by partnering with SUNY, the Thruway Authority, New York Racing Association, and the Office of General Services to use large lots on their various sites for the road test. For school staff who currently hold a CDL, the State will set up expedited testing to obtain a permit to drive vans and buses temporarily.

The State is continuing conversations with stakeholders to identify longer-term strategies that will help to recruit and retain school bus drivers. This includes looking at alternative licensing entities and expanded partnerships with other state agencies to help train and recruit drivers.

The State encourages schools to pursue creative and innovative ways to offer a wide array of benefits for school bus drivers that were previously not considered. This includes signing and retention bonuses, expansion of benefits to the drivers, and other options to recruit drivers in a nationally competitive market. Schools can use federal funds to provide these benefits. Many school districts receive a significant percentage of these funds in reimbursement from the state and are in a position to offer more competitive pay without absorbing the full cost at the local level.