Amid the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, national school transportation leadership is seeking the inclusion of school bus drivers in legislation that would create public service announcements to attract new employee candidates for critical transportation jobs.
The National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation (NASDPTS), and the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) joined forces to encourage school bus drivers to be named in the Promoting Service in Transportation Act that is being debated in both the House and Senate.
Its aim is to increase awareness of job opportunities and diversity in the transportation sector. The introduced bill mentions aviation pilots, safety inspectors, mechanics and technicians, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, truck drivers, engineers, transit workers, railroad workers, and other transportation professionals.
H.R.5118 is currently in the transportation and infrastructure committee. A companion bill, S.3303, was introduced in February and was reported favorably in the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on March 11. Work on the bills has slowed down since the COVID-19 outbreak took center stage, and congressional members began working on a host of economic relief packages.
If passed, the Promoting Service in Transportation Act would appropriate $5 million for the fiscal years 2021 through 2026 to the U.S. Department of Transportation for the production and use of broadcast, digital and print advertising.
“Later this year, schools will eventually reopen, and school transportation providers will need to provide transportation to students,” wrote NAPT Executive Director Mike Martin, NASDPTS Executive Director Charlie Hood, and NSTA Executive Director Curt Macysyn, in a joint statement. “Student transportation operations will likely look different to accommodate student safety and may require more routes for split schedules, staggered start times, and other social distancing measures. Student transportation needs to be nimble and adaptable during this period of time, but this will be impossible if we don’t have trained professional drivers, eligible and available to work.”
Martin, Hood and Macysyn added that the act could provide a boost driver recruitment and retention efforts of public school districts and private school bus operators, especially as they prepare for starting the new school year amid many operational questions arising from COVID-19.
“We strongly encourage the inclusion of school bus drivers specifically in the legislation as it moves through the process,” they added.
Meanwhile, NAPT, NSTA and NASDPTS also formed a joint task force to provide the industry with “practical, tactical information” on how to best prepare for the return of students to school buses.
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