ROCKY MOUNT N.C. — While the school bus driver shortage continues in North Carolina, the state DMV is working hard to make sure the shortage isn’t a result of training.
What You Need To Know
The DMV now has a virtual training program for school bus drivers
School bus drivers need certain credentials, and the DMV runs those training courses
Since March, thousands of drivers have gone through the class
For decades, Jerry Fields has worked to get drivers on the road.
Since 2015, he’s been a Driver Education Program Specialist. He teaches the certification courses that school bus drivers need.
“It’s not about just driving. You can’t just jump on the bus and drive the bus,” Fields said. The courses also include safety protocols and knowing the makeup of the bus.
“When we drive the bus in the morning we get here, we want to inspect the bus. We do what we call a pre-trip, make sure the bus is safe to operate,” Fields said.
Fields says now that people are advertising for drivers, they’re getting more interest in the course. He recalls, however, how the pandemic hit his classes.
“It just slowed it down. I would normally have 15 to 20, 25 people in the class,” Fields said. When the pandemic hit it dropped down to maybe five, six, seven people in the class.”
After testing the program late last year, in March of this year, the DMV launched a virtual class to make the course more accessible and open to more students per class.
All the courses take multiple days and have fees, but the online courses can include more students in a single session.
It also allows potential drivers to take the course without waiting for one to be available in their area.
Since March of this year, 64 instructors have trained more than 3,200 potential drivers in-person, and seven instructors have trained over 1,000 potential drivers online, according to the DMV.
Even though Fields can’t control how many students come through his training, he knows that when they leave, they’ll be ready to hit the road safely.
“It’s a great feeling. When you see somebody coming in, and they’re worried about, you know they haven’t never driven a big commercial vehicle, and they’re ‘I don’t know if I can drive that bus. It’s too big.’ And then as we go through the process of each day of showing them,” Fields said. “Once I see them accomplish that, go through it, it’s a great feeling.”