YORK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Bus companies are trying to find ways to solve the bus driver shortage in Maine and nationwide.
The Maine Department of Education reports that there are 2800 reported drivers and about 50 open positions statewide. While some districts have a sufficient number of drivers, other districts are in need of drivers, Transportation and Facilities Administrator Pat Hinckley wrote in a statement.
Federal law requires people to obtain a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). To get one, a person must pass four written exams: general knowledge, air brakes, school bus, and passenger.
After passing the written exams, Mainers must wait 14 days before scheduling a road test, which is an opportunity to train. The State of Maine does not currently have driver training requirements, but a new federal rule established minimum training standards. The compliance date is February 7, 2020. Maine will address curriculum in preparation for the new U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Entry-Level Driver Training rule, according to Hinckley.
Brian Trafton, a terminal manager for Ledgemere Transportation, which serves a number of Maine districts, said the good economy is to blame for the shortage, and that the job can be a good fit for stay-at-home parents because the schedules line up.
Trafton said that after obtaining a CDL permit, a person must pass a road test, including: a pre-road check of the vehicle, a skills demonstration, and an on-the-road proficiency test.
He said the process can take up to 12 weeks, which can turn away potential candidates.
"I wish we could make it quicker and easier. It really is not that difficult, and it's not that hard to drive," said Trafton.
He said his company has come up with ways to help make the waiting period feel shorter.
"We can put you into a vehicle whether it be riding with somebody, helping the driver out, being a monitor, helping navigate for someone -- just getting you exposed to what it's going to be like to drive a school bus," said Trafton.
Some companies, including Ledgemere, pay for the person to train and pay him or her while he or she is training, and will even pay for the physical health screening required by the state.
Trafton said being a bus driver involves much more than bringing students from Point A to Point B.
"We're the first person they see in the morning, so we need to make sure they have a good morning and start off on the right foot," Trafton said.