State won’t waive CDL requirement for bus drivers despite shortage: Tells districts to ‘think creatively’

State officials are taking action to address the school bus driver shortage, which has been reported across New York since late-Summer.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced an extensive plan including short-term steps to remove barriers and recruit traditional and non-traditional Commercial Driver’s License holders, expand CDL testing opportunities, and enhance processes all designed to get more drivers.

Some advocates have said eliminating the CDL license requirement would be the quickest and most effective way to end the bus driver shortage. However, Hochul’s action falls well short of that.

In the process — Hochul says the state will reach out to more than 550,000 CDL license holders in New York to help fill openings.

“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.”




The state will launch an intense recruitment effort to persuade CDL drivers to become school bus drivers. Local school leaders say without funding for significantly better wages – that won’t work.

Additionally, DMV is changing 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. There will also be new sites opened up across New York.

As far as the possibility of moving away from CDL requirements – Hochul said in a news release that the state is looking at long-term solutions, such as alternative licensing entities. She also called on school leaders to come up with creative and innovative ways to offer benefits to bus drivers that were not previously considered.

Sign-on and retention bonuses, expansion of benefits to drivers, and other tools to recruit drivers in a hyper-competitive market.


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