The Oldest Blog
A first amendment blog for school administrators and attorneys.
In response to a significant and nationwide shortage of school bus drivers, the Department of Transportation (DOT), in a joint temporary action with the Department of Education, will allow States to waive a vehicle skills test for school bus drivers seeking a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The stated goal is to allow schools to remain open for full-time, in-person learning. This alert contains additional details on the decision. If states opt in to the waiver, it will waive the under-the-hood test for certain applicants for endorsements to operate a school bus. States may not waive the other elements of the pre-trip vehicle inspection skills test.
According to the DOT, the historic shortage of school bus drivers across the country has significantly worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), within the DOT, received numerous requests from various stakeholders to waive the engine compartment portion of the pre-trip vehicle inspection skills test to help increase the number of school bus driver applicants. The FMCSA has determined that this temporary waiver is in the public’s best interest and will not decrease public safety.
The FMCSA requires a CDL holder to obtain specific endorsements—School Bus (S) and Passenger (P) endorsements—to operate a school bus. All applicants must pass an engine component skills test called the “under-the-hood” test. The full description of the test is found in the Federal Regulations at 49 C.F.R. § 383.113(a)(1)(i) and requires that an applicant show a level of engine compartment pre-trip vehicle inspection skills, identify each safety-related part of the engine compartment, and explain what needs to be inspected to ensure safe operating conditions. If States opt in, this under-the-hood skills test may be waived only for applicants of a CDL with the School Bus (S) and Passenger (P) endorsements and the Intrastate only (K) restriction.
States may not waive the other elements of the pre-trip vehicle inspection skills test including cab/engine start, steering, suspension, brakes, wheels, side of vehicle, rear of vehicle and special features of tractor-trailer, school bus, or coach/transit bus, if this type of vehicle is being used for the skills test. This ensures that applicants for CDLs under the waiver must still demonstrate their ability to safely operate a school bus. See 49 C.F.R. § 383.113(a)(1)(ii-ix). The optional waiver also allows States to waive 49 C.F.R. § 383.133(c), which dictates how States must score the CDL skills test to include the engine compartment portion of the pre-trip vehicle inspection.
States issuing CDLs pursuant to this waiver must designate a “school bus only” restriction on the CDL in accordance with 49 C.F.R. § 383.153(a)(10)(ix).
The waiver is temporarily available from January 3, 2022 through March 31, 2022. Under Federal law, the waiver may not exceed a period greater than three months.
The Secretary of Transportation has the authority to issue waivers of certain transportation laws under The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century if “the Secretary determines that it is in the public interest to grant the waiver and that the waiver is likely to achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained in the absence of the waiver.” 49 U.S. Code § 31315
For more information or details, please contact your Thompson & Horton attorney.