PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If you have a commercial driver’s license and live in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf wants you. On Thursday, officials talked about steps they’re taking to ease the school bus driver shortage and to protect in-person learning.
The Wolf administration is not only trying to keep kids safe in schools right now, but they’re also trying to make sure they get to and from school amid a statewide school bus driver shortage.READ MORE: Maurice Hill, Man Accused Of Shooting 6 Philadelphia Police Officers During 2019 Standoff, To Begin Trial Monday
The magnitude of the bus driver shortage throughout Pennsylvania is growing by the day with state officials now seeking the help of PennDOT to solicit drivers with a commercial driver’s license.
“Throughout the Commonwealth, we currently have a little over 42,000 school bus drivers, which is the lowest number of licensed CDL school bus drivers the Commonwealth has had in the past five years,” Kurt Meyers, deputy secretary with the Department of Transportation, said.
A 4% decrease in bus drivers since 2017 has led to a desperate need for qualified drivers. The Department of Transportation is reaching out to thousands of drivers to try to fill the void.
“In response to the shortage, PennDOT will be mailing approximately 375,000 current CDL holders across the state with information about the need for school bus drivers,” Meyers said.
PennDOT is temporarily opening as many as 23 training locations for those 18 and over to obtain a CDL.READ MORE: Shooting Inside Lancaster's Park City Center Mall Leaves Some Employees Feeling 'Not Exactly Safe'
The shortages are being felt around the Philadelphia region with the Lower Merion School District devising a driver shortage emergency plan to compensate for sick drivers or call-outs.
Lower Merion transports as many as 9,000 students per day to 136 school locations. They currently employ 114 bus drivers but still have 15 openings.
“If we have to implement our driver emergency plan, that would require that we may have to cancel a route or a couple of routes on any given day or delay those buses so buses can do one run and then turn around and do another run picking up different students,” Amy Buckman with the Lower Merion School District said.
Meanwhile, state officials are working to not only compensate for bus driver shortages they’re also trying to keep schools open and free of COVID-19 outbreaks. They continue to stress vaccinations for eligible students and free weekly testing, which is happening at 400 schools throughout the state.
“21.9% of children ages 12 to 14 are fully vaccinated,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said.MORE NEWS: Philadelphia Weather: Coolest Day Since May As Sweater Weather Continues
The acting secretary of health says as of right now there will not be a mandatory student vaccination policy, but they are continuing to look forward to kids 5 to 11 years old being eligible to get the vaccine very soon.