HARRISBURG – The ongoing statewide and national school bus driver shortage prompted action today by the Pennsylvania Senate Transportation Committee, which passed a legislative measure calling upon Congress to address the workforce famine.
Introduced by Committee Chair Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35) and Senator John Yudichak (I-14), Senate Resolution 172 seeks assistance from federal lawmakers – as well as the US Department of Transportation – to improve the process of obtaining and maintaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Federal and state clearances can take up to 12 weeks to complete and are burdensome at a time when the industry is experiencing the lowest number of school bus drivers in 100 years.
“We have reached a crisis point,” said Yudichak, who chairs the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee. “If anyone wants to become a school bus driver, the process is time-consuming and unwieldy. As a father of four, the safety of our children is paramount, but we can do this in a way that does not impose irrelevant training requirements or barriers on Pennsylvanians seeking this line of work.”
A recent Associated Press report cited a national survey showing that 80 percent of school districts are having difficulty finding bus drivers. There are 500 school districts in Pennsylvania.
“The school bus driver shortage is uprooting school and personal schedules across this Commonwealth, from delaying bus schedules to cancelling an entire day of school,” said Senator Langerholc, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. After hearing from school districts and school bus companies, a major impediment is securing a CDL. The CDL law is governed by strict federal regulations, which is why our resolution urges Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation to re-evaluate the CDL for school bus drivers, while maintaining the safe transport of 1.5 million children in this Commonwealth.”
Across the state, school districts and school bus companies have been struggling to hire and retain an adequate number of qualified school bus drivers. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the shortage, and at times have resulted in schools attempting to borrow bus drivers from neighboring districts, modifying or delaying bus schedules, or ultimately cancelling an entire day of school. State and federal laws and regulations require school bus operators to pass knowledge and driving tests, and demonstrate their capability to safely operate a loaded school bus.