What Are Health Requirements For School Bus Drivers?
Dozens of parents in Freehold are thankful the accident involving a Township High School bus wasn’t worse. Only ten students were taken to the hospital for minor injuries, when the driver suffered a medical episode and veered into a tree in someone’s front yard.
While we trust school bus drivers with our children's life, what are the guidelines that certify them behind the wheel?
Mike Horan from the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission explains that the first step for anyone wanting to drive anything larger than a private vehicle will need to get a Commercial Drivers License (CDL), additionally in New Jersey anyone wanting to drive a school vehicle –van or bus- needs to get an “S” endorsement on your license.
Horan says to get both the license and the endorsement applicants need to take a written and road test; however to comply with state law, a state and federal background check must be done. An accumulation of 12 or more points disqualifies you as well as a DUI conviction or other criminal record automatically disqualifies a candidate.
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Additionally, health plays an important part in getting your certification, since a physical and mental health check up is done every two years. The check up tests for things like hypertension, blood pressure, stress, and Horan says many conditions will disqualify applicants’ right of the bat.
“Diabetic conditions, serious heart seizures, things like that. Those are reported by your doctor and can disqualify you from obtaining or maintaining your CDL.”
Once many conditions are detected they completely disqualify someone from driving a school bus.
“There’s certain things you just can’t drive with, and more serious conditions like seizures or diabetes disqualify you.”
Tim Wallace, President New Jersey School Bus Owners Association, says even once a candidate has passed an exam if at any time they are diagnosed with a condition which would disqualify them, they are removed immediately.
“If there’s any type of preexisting conditions or anything that develops throughout a period a physician notices they usually remove them from driving a school bus because the physicians themselves do not want to put the liability of having that operator behind the wheel.” Says Wallace.
The physical and mental competency tests for CDL’s and the S endorsement are part of federal and state requirements, which means regardless of whether someone drives for a private company or school district they are subject to the same standards.
Wallace notes New Jersey has its own medical unit specifically for school busing. He says the health requirements for driving a school bus in New Jersey are some of the most rigorous for any transportation sector.
“If you’re not in top health and you have any problems whatsoever relating to hyper tension, relating to heart problems, then the medical inspection team will ask to monitor it on an annual basis, and in some cases a six month basis.”
He says if a driver does take an exam and fail, in his experience chances are very slim they will be getting behind the wheel of a school bus.
“I’ve only seen a small percentage, one out of every hundred are able to return to drive a school bus.”