Changes in school transportation services during the pandemic, coupled with low wages for bus drivers, are contributing to a shortage of school bus drivers nationwide.
With transportation services resuming, schools and communities are being left behind in a rush to provide adequate student transportation services. One of the factors contributing to the decline in recruitment activity is the cost and length of time it takes to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
In Cook County, a community organization is leading the way in alleviating this problem.
Cook County Institutions of Higher Education (CCHE) offers a small variety of classes and training for individuals looking to develop new skills, advance their careers, or earn certification in a particular area.
CCHE will offer a free CDL training program on August 31st. CDL Training is a hybrid learning program that allows students to complete online learning from the comfort of their own home.
Kelsey Rogers Kennedy, Cook County Higher Education Associate and Program Director, said:
Kennedy said enrolled CDL students can spend time with online modules in the evenings and weekends. The student must complete the online portion of the training from September 1st until she is September 30th.
During September, students will also complete a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical, pass a background check, and take a five-panel drug test.
“We try to do most of it in Cook County, so we don’t have to leave the area,” Kennedy said.
CCHE offers two sessions for CDL training. The first session is for individuals seeking to obtain CDL-A and CDL-bus certification. From 40 hours on CDL-A he has to drive 50 hours, but CDL bus approval takes 25 hours. The instructors for the driving portion of the training are Cook County residents.
Kennedy said CDL training is “potentially a career change for some people and can lead to an increase in income. There are many reasons why this benefits our community at large.”
Cook County ISD 166 is looking for bus drivers to provide morning or afternoon routes. Kennedy said his free CDL classes are “an absolute element of why this program was put together.”
“I know they have raised the hourly wage for bus drivers to $24 at ISD 166,” she said. “We know there’s an incredible need. It’s perfect for those who want to be retirees who can pitch a little bit, even if they’re not full-time, just for backup.” .”
CCHE has a number of individuals signed up for the CDL training on August 31, but there are still a few spots left, Kennedy said. “Then give us a call and we’d be happy to talk to you and see if this is a good fit for you.”
WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke kelsey rogers kennedy CCHE associates and program directors can learn more about the CDL training program and its value to Cook County. The audio of the interview is below.