MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – State education leaders say training policies for school bus drivers in the state are rigorous and thorough and have confidence they are safe for the students in need of a ride. School districts have said the long training makes finding drivers difficult.

Extensive training hours, written tests, hours of hands-on training paired with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requirement, school bus certification, and a lack of those wanting to work have made it tough to find drivers for the state’s buses. State officials say they’re working through the challenges but believe the state’s training is top-notch.

“It’s difficult to acquire a CDL as it stands, but then you add in passenger endorsement, you add in the school bus specific certification that is required,” says Mike Bullman, Director of Transportation for the South Carolina Department of Education.

Once initial training has been completed, drivers must attend 10 hours of in-service training yearly and renew their certifications.

“The process, I think, is very good,” says Bullman. “I think it’s one that has withstood the test of time and it’s continuing to be reviewed and looked at often.”

But finding qualified drivers hasn’t been easy for school districts or the state. Bullman says of the state’s bus driving positions, 7% of them are open in a normal year. Currently, that number has more than doubled.

“There’s about a 15% shortage across the state and it usually is somewhere around half of that,” says Bullman.

State education leaders say they are working to improve the safety of students while finding the staff needed to keep the yellow buses rolling. Bullman says parents should feel at ease with the policies in place.

“I think parents should certainly be assured that their student is riding on the safest form of transportation possible,” says Bullman.

Bullman says state leaders will continue reviewing training policies for bus drivers in South Carolina to keep students safe. If you’re interested in becoming a school bus driver, you can sign up at this link.