Proposed bill could reduce time to train school bus drivers

ROANOKE,Va. – April Astin's daughter, Mikayla, is a junior in college now.

As a child, Mikayla rode the school bus each year.

Astin believes reducing training time for school bus drivers could be dangerous.

"I am not for it. I think decreasing the classroom training is not a good idea,” said Astin. “I know they may be trying to save money and things, but safety should be the first priority for our kids."

Right now, the Department of Education requires 24 hours of instruction in the classroom and 24 hours of behind-the-wheel training for all new drivers.

Senate Bill 557 would allow drivers who already have a commercial driver's license or CDL, to spend only four hours in the classroom and three behind the wheel.

The same goes for drivers who were previously trained and approved to operate a school bus. 

Drivers without a CDL would be required to spend 24 hours in the classroom and six hours behind the wheel.

Montgomery County Public Schools public information officer Brenda Drake said that for new drivers without a CDL, the change to six hours of behind-the-wheel training is detrimental.

"Going from 24 hours behind-the-wheel training to six is a drastic reduction,” said Drake. “We feel like the 24 hours are needed. Twelve hours without children on the bus and 12 hours with are very critical for a driver to be fully competent and able to complete their job. "

The bill unanimously passes the Senate earlier this week and is on its way to the House.