conomic downturns have typically been a source of new driver applicants for school districts and bus companies. The jury is still out on if the aftermath of the

COVID-19 health crisis is an exception, but fleet managers are weighing its effect on their current work forces as hiring, training and rel- icensing have all been thrown into turmoil. From coast to coast, closures of state depart-

ments of motor vehicles (DMVs) have resulted in lapsed school bus drivers’ licenses and blocked training and licensing for potential hires. “I hear [officials] asking law enforcement to be thoughtful about citing someone driving without a license, but you can’t have an unli- censed person driving a school bus,” said Tom Carroll, director of transportation at the San Juan Unified School District in California. Despite waivers being issued for expiring

CDLs, a lack of consideration and flexibility that the DMV and California Highway Patrol (CHP) have demonstrated toward the state’s school districts have been a source of frustration for Carroll, whose district near Sacramento is among the state’s largest. “Every kid in California is being taught with a

Chromebook—6 million kids—but not our 26,000 drivers. To have allied agencies we thought we could depend on step away from us when the chips are down is frustrating,” Carroll said. “If some thought was put into this, we could do it.” He said he foresees ripple effects extending

throughout 2020 and perhaps beyond. “In California, all training is required to be in

person. We asked for a waiver from the depart- ment of education, but that was denied. So, every new driver must have a minimum of 20 hours of training—most take 30 to 35 hours— but we can’t do that now,” he said. Certified drivers, whose licenses are valid

for five years, are required to train every year in the presence of a state-certified instructor. With the DMV and CHP testing centers closed, Carroll said his staff is left unable to renew their drivers’ licenses. “Every week we’re seeing licenses expire,”

he continued, “I was really hopeful we could provide a lot of online and behind-the-wheel training during this time [when classes are out] and bulk up our driver reserves to the point [where] we’d be much closer to having sufficient reserves. But it looks like we’ll have less drivers.” 35

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