UniteGPS – Picture this: a competitive two-year student bus driver program for teenagers where juniors and seniors gain the skills and credentials to operate a yellow bus. Not only would students apply to this vocational course hoping to earn a monthly stipend but also receive the opportunity to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for future job prospects.
To create a sustainable recruitment model during today’s driver shortage, every year the school district would select a batch of new candidates to replace graduates, ensuring a constant rotation of student drivers to cover routes in the community.
As a company providing routing technology to school districts across the country, UniteGPS contends that the most feasible solution to the bus driver shortage lies in the implementation of student bus driver programs.
Whether you call it work-study or vocational training, we envision this initiative to counteract the retention problem that has always plagued the school transportation industry. In order to achieve this, however, first lawmakers will need to change the minimum driving age for school buses, which is 21 in most states.
Need for a bus driver program for teenagers
If school districts worked internally to recruit qualified students to drive buses, such a program would take on a life of its own with the right legislative support to back it up. In the long run, this would be a win-win situation for both school districts, students, and families.
For administrators, this arrangement would save school districts resources with overhead hiring costs, not to mention extensive marketing campaigns to attract applicants. Student drivers would also earn a stipend for their service while learning a lucrative trade at a young age, meaning more employment opportunities after graduation. Parents could also better rest assured that their children have reliable transportation between home and school every day, meaning nobody will be going stranded.
The fact of the matter is that each state has different minimum age requirements for individuals to operate a school bus, most ranging from 18 to 21. This is why we are encouraging school district officials and transportation leaders to make a grassroots effort in changing legislation where it counts.
Moreover, this isn’t some radical idea either. Although not common knowledge nowadays, high school students once “were selected, strictly trained, and thoroughly supervised” to operate school buses in rural parts of the country. According to David Soule, a former pupil transportation specialist at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the system worked out to have students drive a bus for up to a year and a half before graduation.
Prior to the 1960s, over 20 U.S. states employed 16 and 17-year-olds to drive school buses. Wyoming even allowed 15-year-olds to sit behind the wheel of school buses before the “baby-boom” era of the 1960s put more drivers out on the road. With a subsequent enrollment boom and more cars, this inevitably led to more accidents, despite most student drivers having almost flawless driving records at the time.
As preventative measures, U.S. states eventually raised the minimum driving age for bus drivers to at least 18. In turn, the student driver program ceased to exist. Such legislative changes particularly affected rural school districts that used to employ upperclassmen to take charge of transportation.
If school districts and transportation leaders were to take this call to action to heart, this could ultimately be a catalyst for a major change in the school transportation industry. You can read more about our proposal and how this used to be a common practice in the 1950s here.
What to expect
By signing this petition, rest assured that UniteGPS won’t be sending any marketing material or trying to sell anything in the margins. On the contrary, we intend to share the results of the petition with supporters of our cause, keeping everybody informed about its traction over the following months.
Eventually, we will share the petition results with state governments plus national transit agencies like the Pupil Transportation Association and its various state extensions. This way, the petition can reach more people in charge of potentially changing legislation to make this idea a reality.
Contacts for this petition include CEO of UniteGPS Christopher Bunnell at email@example.com as well as petition writer Jacob Atkins at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any questions or feedback about the petition can be directed to them.