After weeks of training, Aaliyah Lopez is just weeks away from becoming a school bus driver.
"I am very happy. So far, I love this training," said Lopez. "Hopefully I will love the job as well."
Lopez said she applied to become a driver because the schedule works well with her son's schedule. Plus, she knows about the statewide school bus driver shortage.
"I wanted to help out, but then my son is also in school. So it's a win, win for both of us," said Lopez. "They get a driver, I get a job."
DATTCO bus company said, since August, they have heard from a lot of people like Lopez who are interested in becoming a school bus driver. They have about 300 drivers in training right now, but becoming a driver takes time.
In order to be a school bus driver in Connecticut, you need a commercial driver's license with a special endorsement, hours of training, paperwork completed, and to pass a driving test.
"So it is a slow process for us to get fully staffed and that is concerning," said Bryony Chamberlain, vice president of DATTCO's school bus division. "It does mean that we have routes that we are combining so it's taking longer for kids to get to school, but we are doing our best to get everything covered every day."
In September, the state formed a task force to address the challenge. The departments of education, children and families, and the department of motor vehicles have been meeting roughly every week.
"We wanted to make sure there wasn't anything that was going to hold up someone from getting that CDL with S endorsement so they can start driving right away," said Tony Guerrera, deputy commissioner of the CT Department of Motor Vehicles.
According to Guerrera, without skipping safety steps, the DMV was able to work with other agencies to streamline the paperwork process.
"We identified individuals to make sure if they see applications coming from bus companies, that is a priority," said Guerrera. "I think we shaved at least half the time."
Chamberlain said she believes the process can still move even faster. She said her team is also struggling with having enough access to testing slots. While they have about 300 people in training, they are only able to get three to four people tested every week. She is thankful that the state has formed a task force and is looking for solutions as well.
"We need all the help we can get," said Chamberlain.
Lopez got her permit at the end of August. Her background clearance came in September. She is just now wrapping up her training and will test next week. If she passes, Connecticut will have another school bus driver on the road.