On Thursday, Curt Macysyn, the executive director for the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) joined the weekly United Motorcoach Association (UMA) Town Hall to discuss the school bus driver shortage as well as electric school buses and more.
The UMA stated via an email that yellow buses and motorcoaches have a lot in common, as they both transport students, work with local school personnel, and have both worked feverishly for the new school year.
“We share many of the same issues and it will be good to hear some fresh approaches to mutual issues as we prepare for the new school year,” stated UMA president and CEO Scott Michael.
Macysyn, who shared his presentation to UMA members with School Transportation News, discussed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration “Under-the-Hood” waiver and its implications for the school bus driver shortage. NSTA has identified that the under-the-hood testing requirement of the commercial driver’s license skills test is a barrier of entry for the position, resulting in the FMCSA announcing an initial 90-day waiver of the requirement in January through March 31.
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An additional 90-day waiver was then granted that now expires Sept. 30. Eight states—Florida, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin—have adopted the waiver and to date over 180 drivers have been licensed utilizing it, according to NSTA.
To further help school bus driver applicants, NSTA submitted a five-year exemption application to the FMCSA on June 24. A common theme for not implementing the waiver has been state officials stating that they did not have enough time to change their licensing procedures, NSTA noted. The organization said it believes that a five-year exemption, however, will lead to more widespread adoption.
On Aug. 11, the FMCSA published the NSTA exemption application in the Federal Register for a 30-day comment period, which ended on Monday.
Investing in Infrastructure and Jobs Act
Macysyn also discussed the Investing in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA), which included the five-year, $5 billion Clean School Bus Program. As previously reported, school bus contractors were not able to apply for the funds directly, similar to the Clean School Bus rebate program applications that closed last month. Additionally, he noted that the clause of five-year service requirements for school districts and contractors receiving the funds is a challenge, as contracts cannot be controlled.
Related: Contractors Face Potential Limitations Over Access to Clean School Bus Funds
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Another area of interest, Macysyn discussed was Docket No. FMCSA-2022-9979, “State Inspection Programs for Passenger-Carrier Vehicles.” The IIJA, in addition to implementing the Clean School Bus Program, directed FMCSA to “solicit comments on the agency’s April 27, 2016, advanced notice of proposed rulemaking concerning the potential establishment of requirements for states to implement annual inspection programs for commercial motor vehicles designed or used to transport passengers,” the docket states.
NSTA submitted comments highlighting concerns over the potential duplicative Federal Inspection Program for passenger carrier vehicles. Instead, it believes that current self-inspection programs have proven to be effective and safe. The UMA reportedly opposes this as well.
Going forward, NSTA noted future areas of interest between NSTA and UMA, which consist of electric vehicles, CDL process alignment and catalytic converter theft.