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Testing backlog helps fuel school bus driver shortage

Alex Starr/Flickr Creative Commons

There have been a number of reasons advanced for the school bus driver shortage in Maryland and across the nation, lousy pay, brutal hours, pandemic related layoffs. Bus contractors and school officials told state lawmakers Wednesday there’s another issue; the time it takes to get the commercial drivers’ license (CDL) and added endorsements needed to become a driver.

Paul Lebo, the COO of Frederick County schools told members of two General Assembly committees Wednesday that the time it takes for a driver to get through the Motor Vehicle Administration’s testing requirements is creating a backlog and has discouraged some potential drivers.

“We have had a number of candidates who have come in, and they just, frankly, can't wait for the time that it takes, you know, a month or more to get their CDL and being in a non-pay status,” he said.

Chrissy Nizer, the MVA administrator, told the committee members the administration has streamlined its processes, expanded testing hours and worked directly with contractors to get potential drivers tested. But they have another problem. No shows.

“We have seen the no show rate be around the 25% mark,” she said. “And clearly that takes away appointments from people who may be ready to take the test, and have the ability to get through.”

In addition, she said, the failure rate is nearly 50%. And it takes time to schedule a second test.

They’ve also sent letters to more than 88,000 people who have commercial licenses but not the added endorsements required to drive a school bus, urging them to get the endorsements and change careers. It’s not clear how successful that effort has been.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.
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