Comal ISD in search of bus drivers as U.S. Department of Transportation announces waivers for a portion of commercial driver's license test

Though federal waivers are aimed at simplifying the licensing process for bus drivers, CISD officials say they are still in need of applicants for the positions. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Though federal waivers are aimed at simplifying the licensing process for bus drivers, CISD officials say they are still in need of applicants for the positions. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Though federal waivers are aimed at simplifying the licensing process for bus drivers, CISD officials say they are still in need of applicants for the positions. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

On Jan. 4 the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a plan to temporarily waive part of the commercial driver’s license skills test in an effort to alleviate labor shortages among school bus drivers.

If the waivers are approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety, the test that requires applicants to identify engine components will be temporarily waived while all other components of the written and road test will remain.

The federal waiver will expire on March 31, and drivers who receive a CDL would be permitted to operate intrastate school buses only and would not be authorized to operate other commercial vehicles requiring a CDL.

Comal and New Braunfels ISDs have been experiencing bus driver shortages throughout the year, according to district officials, and CISD staff are developing a plan to address the issue.

Comal ISD tests their own drivers, said Steve Stanford, assistant superintendent of communications and organizational alignment for CISD, though the district reportedly has not had any applicants to start the testing process recently.


In a Jan. 10 message to parents, CISD Superintendent Andrew Kim shared that shortages have been exacerbated as coronavirus cases have surged in Comal County.

“Since the start of school we have faced a driver shortage that has impacted our ability to provide transportation services at the level that we would like,” Kim wrote in the message. “However, we are now at the point where we are needing to cancel routes daily due to more of our drivers getting COVID[-19] tested and calling in sick. We anticipate that this trend will continue for the next several weeks.”

The district announced over the weekend that a route that serves Hoffman Lane Elementary School, Canyon Middle School, Canyon High School and Memorial Early College High School would not be operated Jan. 10-11.

Members of the Comal ISD board of trustees Dec. 14 heard an update from the district’s transportation department regarding plans to address driver shortages in the coming months.

During the fall of 2021, office staff of the transportation department who had their commercial driver license stepped in to fill vacancies, and drivers assisted each other with completing routes, said David Andersen, deputy superintendent of school operations.

“[The transportation department] this year has done a really good job of providing transportation within the constraints of not being able to recruit and retain the number of bus drivers and bus assistants that we would normally like to have,” he said. “If we were under normal operations and not at all the adjustments we made, we could be running as many as 150 routes on a daily basis. ... Currently there are about 100 routes.”

However, Andersen said the current solutions are not sustainable and that district officials are developing a plan to improve the transportation system in the event that not enough drivers are hired in the near future.

Officials have discussed the possibility of ending service to homes where students live within a 2-mile radius of their school, which Andersen said would affect approximately 5,000 students.

District staff is expected to present more data to the board during a Jan. 12 special meeting, and the district is not expected to take immediate action on any possible changes.

“I ask for your patience and understanding, particularly with our drivers and transportation department staff, as they continue to work diligently to safely get your child to and from school,” Kim wrote. “And if you know of anyone who would be interested and willing to be a bus driver for us, please have them fill out an application.”
By Lauren Canterberry

Reporter, New Braunfels

Lauren joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in October 2019. After graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, Lauren was a freelance journalist and worked as a college English teacher in China. At CI, Lauren covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in New Braunfels.