As schools prepare to reopen in September, bus companies are scrambling to make sure they have enough school bus drivers.

For years there’s been a shortage of school bus drivers in part because a commercial driver’s license is required and other driving jobs that require a CDL pay more. But this year with the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem is even worse, according to Richard Bozza, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

“People who are concerned about their health, who might be compromised or are just fearful they might obtain the disease, might not want to return to work,” he said.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

Bozza said school bus drivers tend to be older, which means the coronavirus threat is greater for them.

Bus companies have different rules but some may require drivers to conduct temperature checks of students as they get on the bus, and drivers will also have to try and keep students distanced and masked, which will also be challenging.

Bus companies have been struggling to attract drivers in previous years but this year, along with the COVID health emergency, it's harder to hire drivers because of more intensive knowledge requirements. A new federal law that took effect in February requires additional studying and behind-the-wheel training for all school bus drivers.

Another problem has been those who want to become school bus drivers have not been able to get their commercial driver’s license because of the Motor Vehicle Commission's 17-week shutdown.

Agency offices reopened five weeks ago and MVC Chief Administrator Sue Fulton said the commission has recently expanded locations where CDL knowledge testing can take place.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com