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  • January 25, 2022 6:24 PM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    We are excited to inform our members that Nick Vallone, NYSBCA President will testify tomorrow, Wednesday, January 26, at the Elementary & Secondary Education Joint Budget Hearing.

    The hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. Please note NYSBCA President Nick Vallone will be testifying later in the afternoon (PANEL H).

    The hearings will be available for viewing on the Senate and Assembly websites. The Legislative Channel (on cable systems throughout the state) also will carry the proceedings.

    The respective state agency or department heads will begin testimony each day, followed by witnesses who have requested and been selected to testify on that area of the budget.

    • Click here for NYSBCA's written testimony submitted to the committee on higher education.

    • Click here for the list of the selected witnesses for the education hearing. It's a huge accomplishment for our industry that NYSBCA was chosen to testify.

    • Click here for the Joint Legislative Hearing Schedule on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022-23 Executive Budget Proposal.
  • January 12, 2022 1:59 PM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    Governor Hochul Announces Plan to Address Truck and Bus Driver Shortage

    • Proposal Will Enable Third Parties to Conduct Commercial Driver License Road Tests

    • Public Hearing on January 26 to Allow Public Input on the Proposal

    • Builds on State's Efforts to Eliminate Barriers and Create Pathways for New CDL Holders

    Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a plan to help address a critical shortage of truck and bus drivers by significantly expanding the availability of road tests for Commercial Driver License (CDL) applicants. The initiative would allow qualified third parties to offer the road tests, which would create more testing locations statewide and expand capacity at the existing state-run sites, reducing the time it takes to get qualified CDL drivers on the road.

    The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, January 26, to hear and review comments on the plan. The hearing will take place virtually via WebEx (click here for event information) from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It will be open for public comments following a brief introduction by DMV representatives. Written comments may be submitted to CDLThirdPartyTesting@dmv.ny.gov from January 18 to February 4.

    "As we continue to fight this pandemic, we remain committed to expanding opportunities for New Yorkers, supporting our schools, and doing all we can to address the supply-chain issues that have affected many businesses throughout our state and country," Governor Hochul said. "By enabling third parties to give the road test for truck and bus drivers, we will create new avenues for New Yorkers to begin exciting careers, for our children to get to school, and to ensure that vital goods get where they need to be."

    During the public hearing, the DMV will provide an overview of the proposal that calls for a phased roll out of this initiative that would initially allow other state agencies and authorities that have large fleets of commercial vehicles to begin conducting CDL road tests. The second phase would include qualified private entities. The DMV will establish a rigorous monitoring system to ensure that qualified CDL trainers safely administer the road tests in compliance with state and federal regulations. The DMV will use the feedback gathered during the public hearing to evaluate and develop an implementation plan.

    DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder said, "We at DMV know how important it is to have qualified truck and bus drivers on the road, and we are committed to doing what we can to address the need. We look forward to gathering public input at this hearing and then acting to enable qualified third parties to offer CDL road tests to give New Yorkers greater opportunity to take the test and to get good jobs driving these essential vehicles."

    This new proposal is part of a series of actions taken by the State under Governor Kathy Hochul's leadership to remove barriers and recruit more drivers. In September, Governor Hochul introduced a variety of measures by multiple state agencies to address a shortage of school-bus drivers.

    As part of that effort, the DMV expedited the process for obtaining a CDL by removing the 14-day waiting period between the permit test and the road tests. The state also increased capacity to administer road tests and, through cooperation with county-operated DMV offices, to increase testing capacity for written exams.

    In addition, New York opened new CDL Driver Testing sites by partnering with SUNY, the Thruway Authority, New York Racing Association, and the Office of General Services to use large lots on their various sites for the road test. For school staff who held an existing CDL, the State set up expedited testing to obtain a permit that allows them to drive vans and buses temporarily.

    Written comments may be submitted to CDLThirdPartyTesting@dmv.ny.gov from January 18 to February 4.

    Click here for the link to the press release online.

  • January 04, 2022 6:00 PM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    WASHINGTON – To help states and municipalities that are experiencing a shortage of school bus drivers recruit new hires, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in coordination with the Department of Education, today announced it would give states the option of waiving the portion of the commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test that requires school bus driver applicants to identify the “under the hood” engine components. All other components of the written and road test must be met.

    “This federal waiver will help communities that are short on school bus drivers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “By allowing states to focus on the testing requirements that are critical to safety, we will get additional, qualified drivers behind the wheel to get kids to school safely.”

    “This Administration is listening to the needs of school communities and remains committed to making sure schools are open safely for in-person learning full time,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We’ve heard from educators and parents that labor shortages, particularly of bus drivers, are a roadblock to keeping kids in schools. Today’s announcement will give states the flexibility they need to help increase the pool of drivers, who are a key part of the school community, and get kids to school safely each day where students learn best. And American Rescue Plan funds can be used to hire these critical staff, including offering increased compensation or other incentives to recruit and retain staff.”

    “Our nation depends on having enough qualified school bus drivers to support our children’s education. Temporarily giving states the option to modify the school bus test, widens the pool of possible drivers to fill this critical role without compromising our vital safety standards,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi.

    School transportation associations, states and elected officials have pointed to the need to identify “under the hood” components as an unnecessary hurdle for those interested in becoming a school bus driver.

    Under the waiver announced today, states may, but are not required to, waive the requirement that school bus driver candidates identify the “under the hood” engine components. All other CDL skills testing requirements remain in place.

    Drivers receiving a CDL under this temporary waiver are permitted to operate intrastate school buses only; they are not authorized to operate trucks, motorcoaches, or any other type of commercial motor vehicle requiring a CDL.

    The FMCSA waiver, which became effective January 3, 2022, expires March 31, 2022. CLICK HERE to review the waiver.

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  • December 27, 2021 2:26 PM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    Guidance for return-to-work during isolation:

    You may allow a person to return to work after day 5 of their isolation period (where day zero is defined as either date of symptom onset if symptomatic or date of collection of the first positive test if asymptomatic) if they meet all the following criteria:

    • The individual is fully vaccinated (e.g., completed one dose of Janssen or two doses of an mRNA vaccine at least two weeks before the day they become symptomatic or, if asymptomatic, the day of collection of the first positive specimen).

    • The individual is asymptomatic, or, if they had mild symptoms when they return to work, they must:
      • Not have a fever for at least 72 hours without fever-reducing medication.
      • Have a resolution of symptoms or, if still with residual symptoms, then all are improving.
      • Not have rhinorrhea (runny nose).
      • Have no more than minimal, non-productive cough (i.e., not disruptive to work and does not stop the person from wearing their mask continuously, not coughing up phlegm).

    • The individual is able to consistently and correctly wear a well-fitting face mask, a higher level mask such as a KN95, or a fit-tested N95 respirator while at work. The mask should fit with no air gaps around the edges.

    • Individuals who are moderate to severely immunocompromised are not eligible to return to work under this guidance.

    Click Here for the DOH December 24, 2021 notice | Advisory on Shortening Isolation Period for Certain Fully Vaccinated Healthcare Workers

  • December 23, 2021 12:41 PM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    Click here to view the interview with Nick Vallone, NYSBCA President.

    WNYT News Channel 13 NBC | Capital District

    Kumi Tucker and WNYT Staff
    Dec. 22, 2021

    All Albany schools went to distance learning because of COVID cases affecting 21 drivers and a dozen more bus employees.

    It's the latest district to take that kind of action because of bus staffing issues, and bus contractors are worried it's going to get worse.

    School transportation has been a struggle, starting with a national driver shortage.

    Of course, this is an industry that can't work from home.

    "We do not have the option to drive remotely, and with the rise in quarantines specifically due to close contacts, if the trends should continue, we are forecasting that we will run out of drivers during the winter months," said Nick Vallone, Executive Vice President of Rolling V Bus Corporation and President of the New York Bus Contractors Association.

    That association represents more than 100 school transportation companies, taking half of all children who ride the bus to and from school every day.

    President Nick Vallone is warning that a COVID spike could upset an already strained system, and they want to be prepared.

    He says schools are already using solutions like route combinations.

    "So it would only be to simply build on that option, and perhaps adjust more bell times and allow for more schedule flexibility in allowing us to perhaps double up runs," he said.

    Some districts have changed their start times; some drivers make more pickup runs.

    Vallone says it's a race against the clock to get drivers certified, and that they're working with the state to look at things like third party testing to help with the long process.

    "Which our neighbors in Pennsylvania and New Jersey enjoy, which we firmly believe will cut that process down significantly, potentially in half, and allow us to get these individuals at the rate we need to get them behind the wheel," said Vallone. "All while doing it safely."


    Albany schools first to shift remote as COVID-19 cases soar

    Times Union Article | Capital District

    Rachel Silberstein
    Dec 21, 2021

    ALBANY -- All Albany public schools will shift to distance learning Wednesday and will resume in-person learning on Jan. 3, according to a memo from the district.

    The district is the first in the region to end in-school instruction early before the winter break as schools see their highest infection rates since the COVID-19 crisis began in March 2020.

    Staffing considerations were a factor in the Albany district's decision, according to school officials.

    Positive COVID-19 cases and related contacts in recent days have affected at least 21 First Student drivers and 12 additional employees for the bus company, a letter to Albany parents states.

    "Due to these staffing shortages, we are unable to provide an adequate and safe level of service for students Wednesday," the notice reads.

    The New York School Bus Contractors Association warned Tuesday that the recent COVID-19 spike and associated quarantines will have a major impact on school transportation after the holidays.

    "While we are already struggling with a national driver shortage and barely managing to service all the required runs with the drivers we currently have, we are concerned that we will not be able to provide the required transportation service if the COVID cases continue to increase and impact our workforce," the group said in a statement.

    It will be impossible to achieve full-service levels after the holidays if the infection rate climbs "even the smallest percent," according to the organization. "Alternative routing and modified session times appear to be the best options available to serve as many students as possible under these extreme conditions."

    The Hudson Falls and Lansingburgh districts also indicated they are preparing for a potential school closure ahead of winter break, citing the rapid increase in positive cases.

    "I have directed our administrators to work with the staff in each building to ensure that a plan is in place should the need arise to (temporarily) switch to remote instruction when we return after the holiday recess," Superintendent Antonio Abitabile wrote in a letter posted to the district website. "Between the rapid increase of positive cases due to the high transmissibility of the latest variant of COVID-19 and the strong likelihood of holiday gatherings in the next week, the district is taking steps now should our staffing levels decrease to a point that our buildings are unable to open for in-person instruction."

    Click here to view the full article online.


    School bus association concerned with COVID impact after holidays

    News10 ABC | Capital District

    Sara Rizzo
    Dec 21, 2021

    GUILDERLAND, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA) is concerned the recent spike of COVID-19 cases will have a major impact on the school transportation industry after the holidays.

    “While we are already struggling with a national driver shortage and barely managing to service all the required runs with the drivers we currently have, we are concerned that we will not be able to provide the required transportation service if the COVID cases continue to increase and impact our workforce,” said NYSBCA Executive Director Tammy Mortier.

    With COVID restrictions and after the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles shut down for four months, Mortier said the school transportation industry was able to return most of its service in September with a reduced staff. She said the spike in COVID has now slowed hiring and placed many drivers in quarantine.

    “It will be impossible to achieve full-service levels after the holidays if the infection rate climbs even the smallest percent. Alternative routing and modified session times appear to be the best options available to serve as many students as possible under these extreme conditions,” said Mortier.

    NYSBCA will continue to monitor the situation, communicate with communities and discuss temporary solutions to the problem. NYSBCA represents over one hundred school transportation companies and transports more than half of all the children who ride a school bus to and from school.

    Click here to view the article online.

  • December 21, 2021 7:24 AM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    Click here to download the press release.


    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

    December 21, 2021

    Concerns with the recent spike of COVID-19 cases to have a major impact on the school transportation industry after the holidays


    Guilderland, New York
    – With the recent spike of COVID, the increase of quarantine rates, and the challenges presented by the new variants of the virus, we anticipate a major impact on school transportation after the holidays. While we are already struggling with a national driver shortage and barely managing to service all the required runs with the drivers we currently have, we are concerned that we will not be able to provide the required transportation service if the COVID cases continue to increase and impact our workforce.

    After a four-month shut down of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles followed by 14 months of federal and state imposed covid restrictions, our industry managed to put most of our service back in place this past September with a much-reduced staff. The spike in COVID has now compounded the situation, which has slowed hiring and placed many on quarantine. It will be impossible to achieve full-service levels after the holidays if the infection rate climbs even the smallest percent. Alternative routing and modified session times appear to be the best options available to serve as many students as possible under these extreme conditions.

    As we continue to monitor the trends and data from the state health department and U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention Control, communication to our customers, parents, and the communities we serve is imperative to work together to be prepared and discuss temporary solutions.

    About: The New York School Bus Contractors Association represents over one hundred school transportation companies, also known as school bus contractors. The industry transports more than half of all the children who ride a school bus to and from school each day. The Association's mission is to promote safe, reliable, and cost-effective student transportation services for New York's school children. For more information, please visit: www.nysbca.com

    ###

  • December 13, 2021 10:26 AM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    The question on appeal is whether the Court correctly interpreted Education Law section 3635 as requiring school districts outside of New York City to transport non-public school students on days that the non-public schools are open, but the school district's public schools are closed.

    This ruling is contrary to the District's policy and decades of guidance and interpretation by Defendant/Respondent SED with respect to Education Law section 3635.

    The State is arguing that grounds for reversal are that:

    (1) the lower Court misinterpreted and misapplied Education Law section 3635 in concluding that that statute mandates that the District provide transportation to all non-public school students within the District on each day that the non-public schools are in session, regardless of whether the District's public schools are closed;

    (2) the lower Court erred and abused its discretion in granting a summary judgment to the Petitioners-Plaintiff-Respondents despite their failure to comply with section 202.8-g of the Uniform Rules of the Court; and,

    (3) the lower Court erred and abused its discretion in granting a summary judgment to the Petitioners-Plaintiff-Respondents despite their failure to file the pleadings in action as part of their motion for summary judgment.

    Click on the links below to download the notice of appeals and the recent notice of appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the Third Judicial Department filed by NYSED.

    Notice of Appeal Filed 11/22/21

    Notice of Appeal Filed 11/23/21

    Supreme Court Filing 11/22/21


  • December 07, 2021 11:23 AM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    Click here for the memo in PDF format to download.

    NYSBCA has received confirmation that if an employee refuses to get vaccinated or tested, then they become ineligible to collect unemployment benefits under the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) policy.

    From NYSDOL website: https://dol.ny.gov/unemployment-insurance-top-frequently-asked-questions

    If a worker refuses to get vaccinated, will they be eligible for UI benefits?

    Like all UI claims, eligibility will depend on the circumstances as each claim is unique and reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Workers in a healthcare facility, nursing home, or school who voluntarily quit or are terminated for refusing an employer-mandated vaccination will be ineligible for UI absent a valid request for accommodation because these are workplaces where an employer has a compelling interest in such a mandate, especially if they already require other immunizations. Similarly, a public employee who works in a public setting and is subject to a local government mandate to submit proof of vaccination or negative testing may be disqualified from the receipt of UI if they refuse to get vaccinated or tested. In contrast, a worker who refuses an employer’s directive to get vaccinated may be eligible for UI in some cases, if that person’s work has no public exposure and the worker has a compelling reason for refusing to comply with the directive.


    UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

    Who qualifies to COLLECT unemployment insurance? According to the Department of Labor, you're eligible for UI benefits if you:

    1. Lose your job through no fault of your own.
    2. Meet the work and wage requirements established by your state, as well as any additional state requirements.

    What qualifies to be DENIED unemployment insurance?

    1. If you quit your job without "good cause."
    2. If you were discharged for misconduct or lack of compliance with employer policies.

    Can you collect unemployment if you're fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine or testing?

    1. NO, you will be denied UI. You were discharged for refusing the vaccine mandate and testing, that would be considered being fired "for cause."
  • November 08, 2021 12:25 PM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    On Friday 11/5, OSHA published to the Federal Register, a COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), effective immediately that will require employers with 100 or more employees to:

    • Have Employees Vaccinated by January 4th and Require Unvaccinated Employees to Produce a Negative Test on at Least a Weekly Basis,
    • Pay Employees for the Time it Takes to Get Vaccinated,
    • Ensure All Unvaccinated Employees are Masked,
    • Implement Reporting Requirements,
    • Provided Information Gathered to Employees, and
    • Follow New Vaccination Requirements for Health Care Workers


  • November 05, 2021 2:20 PM | Tammy Mortier (Administrator)

    In accordance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations (FMCSA) waiver regarding medical certification, CDL holders whose Medical Examiners Certificate (MEC) expired prior to June 1st were  placed in a “Not Certified” status and notified by mail that their license would be downgraded to a non-CDL class if an updated medical certificate was not received and posted to their DMV record within 55 days.  This reminder is being sent to advise you that on Monday November 8, 2021, any driver whose medical certificate expired prior to June 1st that did not submit an updated medical certificate will have their CDL downgraded.

    Additionally, the  FMCSA waived until November 30, 2021, the requirement under 49 CFR 391.45 that CDL holders, CLP holders, and non-CDL drivers have a medical examination and certification, provided they have proof of a valid medical certification and any required medical variance (as defined in 49 CFR 390.5T such as an exemption letter or a skill performance evaluation certificate) issued for a period of 90 days or longer and expired on or after June 1, 2021. Drivers whose MEC expired on or after June 1, 2021 must have a current valid MEC on file with DMV by November 30, 2021. On December 1, 2021, drivers in this category who do not have an MEC on file will be placed in a “Not Certified” status and will be notified that their license will be downgraded to a non-CDL class.

    The FMCSA waiver can be found here:

    https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/emergency/waiver-response-covid-19-national-emergency-states-cdl-holders-clp-holders-and-4

Yellow School Bus Advocate

Formed in 1950, the New York School Bus Contractor Association has a proud and accomplished tradition of serving as the voice of school bus contractors, distributors, manufacturers and suppliers on issues of common interest at the state capital and beyond.

Get In Touch

NYSBCA

P.O. Box 1352, Guilderland, NY 12084

(518) 217-2505

tammy.mortier@nysbca.com



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