The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granted a 90-day extension to temporarily waive the ‘under-the-hood’ skills test that is part of a new commercial driver’s license (CDL) application.
The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) pushed for the original waiver that was issued on Jan. 3 and was set to expire on Thursday as well as the extension to further support the recruitment of new school bus drivers because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
State agencies that oversee the CDL process now have through June to waive the engine compartment component of the pre-trip vehicle inspection skills testing requirement, also known as “under the hood,” for commercial driver’s license applicants seeking the School Bus (S) and Passenger endorsements (P) as well as the Intrastate only (K) restriction.
All other CDL skills testing requirements remain in place.
“NSTA believes that this waiver allows the CDL process to better reflect the responsibilities of a school bus driver, without negatively affecting safety of our students,” NSTA Executive Director Curt Macysyn stated. “We look forward to working with the agency in making permanent changes to assist in alleviating the bus driver shortage without impacting safety.”
The additional three months, according to the FMCSA, “temporarily removes a potential barrier of entry for the pupil transportation industry in its recruitment of school bus driver candidates, as the waiver aligns the process of obtaining a CDL more closely with the responsibilities of a school bus driver. This extension will take contractors into the beginning of summer months, which is peak recruitment season for school bus drivers,” a press release states.
Related: Does Taking a Peek ‘Under the Hood’ Impact Driver Shortage?
Related: FMCSA Temporarily Waives School Bus CDL Under the Hood Skills Test
Related: New York Seeks to Quicken CDL Process for Bus, Truck Drivers
Related: Are You Prepared for New Entry Level Driver Training Requirements?
However, STN readers have shared via Facebook and with editors that the under-the-hood component of the skills test is not a major obstacle to obtaining a CDL. As STN Editor-in-Chief Ryan Gray commented in his February Editor’s Take column, some industry professionals say the under-the-hood skills test is not the deciding factor in whether new applicants proceed with getting their CDL to drive school buses.
Macysyn told School Transportation News that seven states — Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin — had implemented the waiver prior to FMCSA issuing the extension.