WASHINGTON — In response to a serious and sustained shortage of school bus drivers across Maine, the state’s congressional delegation is pushing the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to take steps to safely address the urgent need for additional drivers. The lawmakers, in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, called for the agency to delay or temporarily waive certain training and certification requirements that could keep prospective bus drivers from quickly filling open jobs.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit both the education and transportation sectors especially hard, and this is distinctly true for the school bus drivers who bridge these two sectors,” wrote Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (ME-01) and Jared Golden (ME-02) in their letter to Buttigieg. “First, in 2020, extended suspensions of in-person learning reduced the work available for drivers, leading many to seek other jobs. Now that demand has returned, many school districts are facing short-staffed bus fleets, forcing difficult decisions about canceling bus routes, which undermine children’s ability to access the educational opportunities they need and deserve. The federal government must work with states to grant temporary regulatory flexibilities to ease these pressures for school bus providers and drivers while continuing to ensure road safety.”
The Maine delegation’s letter follows an earlier request from Governor Mills to the DOT, a request that has not received an official response in over two months.