Local school districts cope with lack of bus drivers

Local school districts cope with lack of bus drivers
Local school districts cope with lack of bus drivers(WTVM)
Updated: Jul. 22, 2022 at 7:30 AM EDT
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It’s time for school and time for kids to get back on the bus.

While students may be back in the classroom post pandemic, school bus drivers are a dime a dozen.

A few factors contributing to fewer drivers nationally are age and the pandemic.

Many school bus drivers were older adults who retired or didn’t return due to health reasons and the pandemic.

The national school bus driver shortage affecting school districts right here in the Chattahoochee Valley.

“Right now, we’re about 14-15 drivers short,” said Harris County Schools Asst. Superintendent of Business Services and Technology Justin Finney. “So, we’re working really hard to make up for that shortage.”

Harris county school’s staff told News Leader 9 they have plans in place to help.

“Bringing back anybody that has driven for us before that’s retired, combining some routes that we could to save on drivers and implementing group stops across the county,” said Finney.

Finney said there are plans to combine routes, saying if staffing becomes critically low they also have an emergency plan.

“We’ll do what we call tier 2 routes.” said Finney. “Which means we have some routes that we drop off at school early and then we’ll turn those buses around and run a second route a secondary route to pick those kids up and hopefully get them to school before school starts.”

Phenix City Schools is also experiencing a shortage. Creating a plan of team work to bear the load.

“We have right now about 41 drivers that are full time employees in our district, Phenix City Schools Director of Personnel Alan Miller. “We also have a lot of staff whether it’s teachers and coaches who also maintain their credentials to drives buses.”

To help alleviate the problem, school districts have increased starting salaries, hoping to bring in long term staff.

“Right now for a initial driver our salary is a little over $17.00,” said Miller.

“Pay for a year one no experience driver is $16.40 and hour, if a driver has experience it could be up to $22 an hour,” said Finney.

“We know that that is helping us attract better candidates to be bus drivers in our district,” said Miller.

Both districts say they want to make sure parents understand the issue and have an alternate plan. They say overall your child’s safety is their top priority.

They said they’ll be doing their best to communicate any transportation issues with parents and families.

There’s been no changes to employment requirements and no fast tracking of training to ensure safety.

Another contributor to the shortage is the Federal Motor Carrier Act, which extends drivers license training requirements.

In most states it takes 30-45 days to obtain a CDL. However, Harris County, bus driver candidates are getting their training paid for by the district.

For information on how to apply to open bus driving positions you can visit Harris County Schools and Phenix City Schools websites.

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