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'Daunting' bus driver qualifications hinder recruitment

  • 5/3/2023 3:38:00 PM
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'Daunting' bus driver qualifications hinder recruitment

(The Center Square) – School bus companies in Pennsylvania told lawmakers Tuesday that hiring hurdles encourage potential drivers to look elsewhere for work.

“The rigors of just qualifying to become a driver is a daunting task,” said Aaron Sepkowski, president of Pocono Transportation and vice president of the Pennsylvania School Bus Association.

The process, he noted, can take months. Potential workers can’t always go for so long without a paycheck as they wait for background checks to clear and to pass physical tests to qualify.

“We are finding, once they realize what they have to do to become a school bus driver, that takes 12 weeks and know mechanical guidelines and operations, they’re simply saying, ‘You know what? I’m going to go to McDonald’s for $15 an hour and have a job tomorrow,’” Sepkowski said.

The School Bus Association provides transportation for over 80% of the state’s students, he said.

One reform Sepkowski advocated for the creation of a school bus-only CDL “that will eliminate the intimidation and discouragement of all prospective drivers.”

Such a CDL would exempt drivers from demonstrating the same mechanical knowledge expected of commercial truck drivers. New Jersey took a similar action in 2022 that implemented a federal waiver. Wisconsin, too, has adopted the waiver and licensed almost 70 new school bus drivers as a result.

“Pennsylvania has not implemented this waiver. However, multiple states have already implemented it and adopted it — with no safety issues,” Sepkowski said.

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