The Transportation and Agriculture Committees will be kicking off the 2017 Legislature’s occupational licensing reform debate. Three occupations will be discussed during the first committee hearings: Motor Vehicle Salesperson, School Bus Drivers, and Potato Shippers.
While all three are very important to removing barriers to more and better jobs, I want to focus on school bus drivers, because there is a lot in this occupational reform effort that can also apply to other professions and legislation.
Nebraska is one of only two states in the country along with Illinois that requires school bus drivers to earn two different types of licenses to drive a school bus. This additional burden has contributed to a shortage of bus drivers in many Nebraska school districts, not to mention headaches for school bus drivers like Luke French.
When he’s not driving for his local school district, Luke, as you may remember from our other articles, also runs a small business in Malcolm.
How did Nebraska get into this position of putting more burdens on workers like Luke than other states? It has to do with outdated legislation.
Years ago, it was up to the states to regulate school bus drivers. Each driver had to obviously have a driver’s license, but many states took extra precautions to ensure these drivers could provide a safe environment for the children they were transporting. Nebraska was no exception, and they created a DMV-issued School Bus permit to ensure these drivers were qualified to drive these large buses.
In 1999, however, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act was enacted by Congress. Nebraska adopted the safety standards in this federal law. The Act covered all vehicles over 26,000 pounds or which carry 16 or more passengers including the driver. The “S” (school bus) endorsement was created for operators of school buses, who were required to hold a CDL. That means under federal law, a CDL holder must have an “S” (school bus) and “P” (passenger) endorsement to drive a school bus in Nebraska or any other state.
Historically the Nebraska Department of Education has participated in regulation of school buses and drivers. The Department is required by state law to have the DMV to annually collect a duplicate medical record for all school bus drivers and issue school bus permits who have already earned the S and P endorsements now required by federal law and Nebraska statute for school bus drivers.
The Nebraska School Bus Permit is now redundant because commercial driver’s license holders are already required to meet the federal standards every other year. The additional state permit is a burden on school districts, drivers, and the Nebraska DMV. Many school bus drivers have multiple jobs like Luke, and this permit requires them to travel to licensing stations annually, wasting time for travel and to be processed – sometimes at very busy stations.
Legislative Bill 347 will eliminate the school bus permit and remove some of these obstacles for both drivers and school districts. The Platte Institute will be testifying in support of this legislation.
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