Bus Driver Shortage Hits Area Schools

Anita Campbell
County Reporter
Snow and icy road conditions concern area school superintendents as they decide whether or not to cancel school, but it is a special concern for the area school bus drivers as well.
School bus drivers have the special duty of making sure students get to school safely and on time.
“We are fully staffed as far as our school bus routes go but we are always in need of bus drivers” said Warsaw R-9 Superintendent Dr. Shawn Poyser. 
Public and private school employees who operate school busses transporting students from home to school, school to home, and school-sponsored events are required to have a school bus endorsement on their license. Any school bus driver who has not obtained the new S endorsement may be charged with a violation of driving a commercial motor vehicle without the required endorsement.
Per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), mechanics operating an empty school bus are not required to have the S endorsement. They are only required to have the proper class of CDL with passenger vehicle (P) endorsement.
A bus driver may take the school bus endorsement written test, or any additional CDL written and skills tests, at any Missouri State Highway Patrol driver examination station.
If the driver currently holds an out-of-state CDL document, he or she must meet the requirements for the S endorsement in thier state of record and obtain the S endorsement on the CDL to be eligible to drive a school bus for a Missouri school.
To obtain a school bus endorsement on a current CDL, the driver must:
Pass the written test for obtaining a CDL with passenger vehicle (P) and school bus (S) endorsements at a Missouri State Highway Patrol driver examination station.
Take the written test results to the local license office to apply for a new commercial learner's permit in the class of passenger vehicle/school bus the driver will be operating and hold such permit a minimum of 14 days prior to skills testing.
Pass a driving skills test in a school bus of the same vehicle group, as the school bus applicant will drive.
Take the permit and skills test results to the local license office to apply for a new CDL with the P and S endorsements.
Meet driving history review requirements specific to school bus operators in Missouri (completed at the time of application).
Pay the applicable fees for a new CDL license, and the required fees for the CDL test(s).
The responsibility of determining employability has been transferred to the local school district or employer.
Drivers transporting pupils for a public school district must have a statement on file from a medical examiner that indicates he or she is physically qualified to operate a school bus. This information may be retained in the employee files as determined by the district or contractor.
The medical statement shall be completed annually.
New school bus drivers must have the medical statement on file with the district or contractor prior to initial operation of a school bus.
If the driver is less than 70 years of age, he/she is not required to submit proof of testing upon renewal of a license with an S endorsement.
If the driver is age 70 or over, he/she is required to submit proof of a school bus skills test, at time of renewal, to retain the S endorsement on his/her driver license. The license and skills test fees are waived, but a $2.50 office processing fee will still apply.
NOTE: State law requires drivers transporting pupils for a public school district to complete training, at least 8 hours in duration, providing special instruction in school bus driving. This training must be completed annually. It is the responsibility of the employer or school district to verify the required training has been completed.
The responsibility for obtaining fingerprints for school bus drivers falls on local school districts and DESE. Drivers (district and contracted) should obtain fingerprint cards from the local school district and submit the completed cards to the school district to initiate the background checks. The school district will submit the information on DESE’s website and mail the cards and cover letter to DESE.
“We are always looking for substitute drivers,” said Poyser.  “Not long ago the Lincoln superintendent called me asking if we had any extra drivers and luckily I was able to send one of our drivers to Lincoln to help out.  We all have the same problem of having enough certified drivers to fill our routes every morning and every afternoon.”
For more information about becoming a bus driver contact the central office at 660-438-7120 for Warsaw R-9.