Record-low unemployment rates have combined with a job that is typically viewed as difficult and thankless to create a shortage of bus drivers in almost every part of the country. Some school districts have questioned whether background checks for bus drivers are contributing to the challenge of hiring people to fill these important transportation roles.
The argument is that background checks and high hiring standards reduce the potential applicant pool by discouraging individuals with criminal records from applying. School districts need to keep their standards for bus drivers high to ensure student safety. The dilemma—loosening standards and accepting safety risks or keeping standards high and potentially thinning the applicant pool—is one of the top challenges that many school districts are facing today.
The issue is not improving. Recent news stories show that, in addition to the hiring concerns that schools are facing, existing background checks for bus drivers are less robust than they should be.
In Connecticut, for instance, a December report from a state auditor found that ongoing background checks for school bus drivers in the state weren’t doing enough to keep kids safe. The Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles conducts periodic repeat background checks on current school bus drivers to find recent arrests, convictions, or driving infractions that might impact their ability to perform their jobs.
The auditor’s report found that the DMV is using antiquated processes and equipment, and that it is not being thorough enough in its ongoing monitoring of bus drivers. For instance, the DMV’s current background checks for bus drivers do not include checks of abuse and neglect registries from the state’s Department of Children and Families, nor do they look beyond state lines to find recent red flags from outside of Connecticut.
The issue of lax background checks for bus drivers isn’t just impacting schools. A recent news story out of New York City explored how “bungled background checks” from New York City Transit and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services allowed individuals with “serious crimes” on their records to get jobs as city bus drivers. The findings, which come from the MTA Inspector General, indicate that at least 11 city bus drivers were able to start working without disclosing convictions for crimes such as rape and robbery.
The city fired the individuals after background checks flagged the convictions. MTA’s Inspector General has stated that hiring these employees at all was a “risky” move by the city, and that training and onboarding them only to fire them after their background check reports came back was a “costly” blunder.
The report also found that the city was skipping key parts of the background check not pertaining to criminal history. In “nearly 80 percent” of cases, the city did not conduct the proper verifications of education and work history.
At backgroundchecks.com, we offer a variety of background check products that school districts and transit authorities can use to conduct thorough screenings of their bus drivers. These products include county, state, and multi-jurisdictional criminal history checks; verifications for education, work history, references, and professional licenses; and checks for motor vehicle records. Contact us today if you need help designing effective background checks for bus drivers to balance safety and efficient hiring.