Brewer (Maine) School Department athletic administrator Dave Utterback has sent Brewer coaches an email asking them to consider getting licensed to drive their team buses to help address an ongoing shortage of bus drivers, which has been exacerbated by drivers leaving the job amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As reported by the Bangor Daily News, Utterback plans to get his own Class B license to help transport Brewer's teams, stating, "Everybody travels, every team we have has a need to get somewhere and I don't want to not be able to get them where they need to go."
Troy Gravel used his Class B driver's license for several years while coaching high school and middle-school soccer in North Carolina, where one of a coach's responsibilities was to drive the team bus to games and back. Gravel moved to Maine in 2016 and planned to let his Class B license expire in November.
"Literally a week ago I thought, 'I've got to renew but I'm not going to because I don't have to drive buses up here'," Gravel, now the assistant girls soccer coach at Brewer High School, told Daily News reporter Ernie Clark. "Then I got the email saying they were hurting for bus drivers and 'Can the coaches drive?' and I said, 'Okay, I'm not going to let my license expire after all.' "
Brewer offers 12 high school and middle-school athletic programs during the fall, and Gravel is one of approximately a dozen coaches in the system who already have indicated an interest in getting the license required to drive their teams to fall sports contests, Utterback said. Most events are held during the mid- to late afternoon when regular bus drivers are busy returning students home from school.
Brewer contracts its bus service through Cyr Bus Lines, and coaches who earn their Class B licenses would be hired by the bus company. The licensing process begins with a written test that leads to a learner's permit, followed by time spent training with an already licensed driver leading to the final driver's exam, which includes a road test.
"It would help us greatly, and we have the ability to train them," Mike Cyr, president of Cyr Bus Lines, told the Daily News. "At the end of the last school year back in June there was talk about [training coaches] but I don't know if we have anybody started yet.
"We're all for it, they've just got to be trained and they've got to be qualified."