Many unqualified, dangerous and otherwise ineligible drivers are behind the wheel of school buses across the nation. Requirements for school bus drivers vary from state to state. Some drivers only need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). In many cases, no background checks or screenings are required.
Are Kids Safe on School Buses?
School bus drivers rarely cross state lines, so federal safety regulations for screening and background checks that apply to other commercial drivers do not apply. As a result, many drivers who don’t qualify for a job as a driver with a commercial trucking or transportation company do quality to drive a school bus. Unfortunately, relaxed regulations, lack of requirements, and the absence of background checks pose increased safety risks for children on school buses.
According to reports, many school bus drivers have DUI charges and criminal records that go undetected since background checks are not done. A recent CBS investigation reports that at least once every week a school bus driver is arrested for a DUI offense, sexual assault, or child pornography. Without a background check, a school bus driver who has extensive vehicle accidents, DUI offenses, or a criminal background will not be automatically disqualified.
In some cases, employers ignore information discovered in background checks, because of the need for drivers. Across the country, 90 percent of school districts report a big shortage of school bus drivers. CBS investigations highlight the case of a person hired to drive a school bus in Tennessee, even though a background check revealed that the individual had a criminal history that included a weapons and drug possession charge in a school zone. In Pennsylvania, a state audit revealed that five school bus drivers in the Lancaster School District had criminal convictions that included firearms violations, drug offenses, and felony assaults. The Pennsylvania audit found missing documentation or criminal backgrounds for bus drivers in 58 different school districts. In New York, a bus driver for the East Irondequoit School District was charged with three counts of child endangerment and sexual assault. He had been arrested one year earlier on suspicion of child abuse.
In the United States, 21 million children ride on school buses every day. Although some states do have stringent requirements for licensing and background checks in place, most do not. To ensure child safety, parents should check into their school district’s requirements for school bus drivers.