New school bus drivers in Tennessee will have to be at least 25 years old, and the state will set standards for driver and transportation manager training, under a newly enacted bill, HB 322. As of January 1, 2018, the new law will raise the minimum age from 21 to 25. In a recent Chattanooga crash, school bus driver Johnthony Walker was 24 years old. He now faces six counts of vehicular homicide and other charges.
Under the new law, current school bus drivers who are between 21 and 25 years old will be grandfathered in, so they can renew their existing endorsement. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that about 130 current TN school bus drivers who are under the age of 25 will be grandfathered in.
According to the latest state data collected by School Bus Fleet, there are approximately 9,178 school buses in TN. This suggests that the 130 current drivers who are between 21 and 25 years old operate about 1.4% of the school buses in the state.
HB 322 also includes measures to increase state oversight of pupil transportation. The legislation directs the TN Department of Education (DOE) and the TN Department of Safety to develop a mandatory training program for all transportation supervisors, establish a system for monitoring school compliance with state and federal laws, and prepare and annually update guidelines on best practices for the management of student transportation.
The governor of TN signed the legislation, HB 322, into law on May 4, 2017.