Putting the Brakes on a New Law

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

Local charter bus drivers say it's time to put the brakes on a law that requires them to take school bus driving courses if they are going to transport children.

The law passed this past summer and it requires motor coach drivers to undergo background checks, fingerprinting and school bus driving tests.

Charter bus drivers say they're not convinced that the school bus driving class they're now taking will help them when they hit the road.

"There is no advantage to taking a school bus class to drive a coach one," said Dallas Utech, of Rockford Coach Lines.

Mike Koester also works for Rockford Coach Lines

"What we do and what they do are totally different, with two different types of equipment. What applies to one doesn't necessarily apply to the other," Koester said.

But according to a bill passed last summer, in order for a motor coach driver to transport children they must have a school bus driver's license, as well as background checks and fingerprinting. Drivers say schools make up about 45 percent of their business, so this requirement has really cost them.

"Probably hundreds of hours have been spent talking to people on this issue. We're losing revenue everyday because schools are canceling us," says Jim Hedlund, owner of Hedlund Tours.

"It's a total waste. It's a waste of the companies' money because they have to pay us to come here, to take classes. They have to pay for everything," said Utech.

Legislators are trying to re-write the law. There is currently a committee set up in Springfield to review the matter. Gov. Blagojevich said Wednesday it's something he'll be pushing for as well.

"It sounds like an issue that's clearly got validity to it. I voted for that measure when I was a Congressman. We'll try to move it forward."

Charter drivers and owners hope a solution comes sooner rather than later.

"It's just gotten to the point where we're jumping through hoops now and we don't know what else to do," said Hedlund.

The drivers say they have no problem with background checks, but they're having a hard time understanding the need for the school bus classes.

Charter drivers already undergo testing on their buses similar to truck drivers with a certain amount of driving time, a written test as well as a driving test. Additionally they go through drug testing and physicals - all required by state and federal laws.


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