Wisconsin DOT waiving test requirement for potential bus drivers, could provide boost to local districts in need of drivers

Potential bus drivers will no longer have to identify under-the-hood components until at least the end of March

WESTBY, Wis. (WKBT) – Over the last two years, Wisconsin Department of Transportation leaders say 750 school bus drivers have let their licenses lapse.

But, Western Wisconsin school districts could possibly get a boost in driver numbers.

The Westby Area School District is always in need for more drivers.

“We’re constantly looking for people,” superintendent Steve Michaels said.

Incase something were to happen.

“Knock on wood, we’ve been in a really good spot with being able to run our routes this year,” Michaels said.

But Michaels says if just even a few drivers contract COVID-19, it can become a problem very rapidly.

This is why the district is constantly recruiting to hopefully prevent a shortfall.

“It’s not a new issue,” Michaels said. “But I got to tell you we’re feeling it a little bit more.”

So to help address the shortage, the DOT is temporarily waiving the testing requirements for drivers to identify under-the-hood components.

Kristina Boardman, DMV administrator, says the federal government provided states like Wisconsin this waiver.

“This just allows kind of a shortcut on that pre-trip inspection in hopes that it does remove a barrier,” Boardman said.

The waiver is open until the end of March.

“We have seen other federal waivers, many of them have been extended,” Boardman said. “I don’t know if this one will.”

But Michaels says he is not sure if the waiver is going to pull in more drivers because it’s an easier part of the testing process.

He says another solution could be lowering the cost of taking a test.

“For some people, a couple hundred bucks to take that test is like, ‘hmm, I’d rather not spend that money at this point,'” Michaels said.

But in the current situation we’re in, Michaels says the waiver is a step in the right direction.

“Anything that we can do to make it easier or quicker, the better,” Michaels said.

Michaels says the district has roughly 25 drivers, and says they get reimbursed pretty well.

He says the district also has a number of people driving as substitute drivers.

Boardman says both the written and road tests are still required.