School Bus Driver Requirements Differ Among TN School Districts
The November school bus accident in Chattanooga that killed six children has left many parents and residents wondering what the requirements are for becoming a school bus driver in the state of Tennessee.
A report by WBIR revealed that the requirements differ from school district to school district in the Volunteer State, and that the driver of the bus involved in the accident wouldn’t have been eligible to drive in other districts—including for Metro Nashville Public Schools.
The driver, who has been charged with multiple counts vehicular homicide, is 24 years old, but MNPS requires that all drivers be at least 25 years old. In addition, he also received prior complaints about his driving abilities and behaviors prior to the accident.
Tennessee established several laws and regulations that govern the process for hiring and employing school bus drivers, but other laws and regulations vary among school districts.
What Are the Requirements to Become a Bus Driver in TN?
School bus drivers have an extremely important responsibility on their hands every day. In addition to being tasked with successfully navigating a large vehicle through tight turns and narrow roadways, they also must protect the children onboard and even maintain discipline.
To make sure bus drivers can handle these tasks, the state of Tennessee set forth a few requirements:
- Be 21 years old and possess an unrestricted commercial driver’s license (CDL)
Drivers in Tennessee must be at least 18 years old to apply for a CDL. However, even if they receive a CDL, they can’t drive a bus until they’re at least 21 years old, as that’s the minimum age to be employed as a bus driver in the state.
- Pass a knowledge and skills test
Obtaining a CDL requires passing a knowledge and skills assessment. These assessments include things like successfully performing pre-trip inspections, being able to successfully maneuver the bus, and other road-based skill tests. Applicants first complete the knowledge test and are awarded a permit. They can then earn their license by completing the skills test 14 days later.
- Pass testing required by the school district
The steps listed above are enough to be eligible to drive a bus in the state of Tennessee, but individual school districts often have their own requirements. Many school districts perform extensive background tests on applicants and look for anything that could either prevent them from safely driving a bus or being in proximity of children. They also may need to complete additional knowledge and skill testing.
- Complete four to six weeks of training, including ride-alongs
Metro Nashville Public Schools requires that all drivers undergo four to six weeks of on-the-job training, which includes being assigned a route and participating in a ride-along with another more experienced driver for three days to learn the ropes of the job. Observing the other driver can help new drivers learn the best ways to manage students and safely navigate their routes.
- Take in-service classes, maintain driving endorsement, and pass bus safety checks
The work isn’t over for bus drivers after they receive their licenses and complete their training programs. They also must complete in-service classes twice per year to maintain the endorsement on their licenses that allows them to drive buses. If they fail to attend a class, they can have the endorsement revoked. The Tennessee Highway Patrol also performs random safety checks on 10 percent of the buses in a fleet every year, and it’s important to for bus drivers to make sure their vehicles are safe and road-worthy.
WBIR also reported that parents who want to file a complaint against a bus driver can do so by dialing the Metro Public Schools family information center hotline at (615) 259-4636. It’s important for parents to follow up on complaints from their children if they notice drivers exhibiting dangerous behaviors behind the wheel.
If your child was injured in a school bus accident that was caused by a negligent driver, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other accident-related expenses. To find out how our legal team can build a claim for you that maximizes your chances of receiving compensation, contact our Nashville bus accident attorneys today by dialing (615) 200-1111 or completing a free online consultation form.