Hardin County Schools and Elizabethtown Independent Schools are looking for people to fill empty bus driver seats as the first day of a new school year approaches.
Despite pay increases for the position, vacancies remain.
Steve Smallwood, assistant superintendent for student services and support at EIS, said currently there are five bus driver vacancies in the district. Smallwood said the district has 16 bus routes.
He said since he has been in the position, he has never had a full bus driver staff, and generally has a hard time finding applicants.
Chris Corder, HCS director of transportation, said they are 15 bus drivers short. However, he said this amount is nothing new to the district, and said the issue of a bus driver shortage is “a nationwide problem.”
He said ideally, the district would like be at around the 200 mark for bus drivers.
“We’ve always been short of what we would like to have,” Corder said.
With an older population of bus drivers, he found that it’s difficult to replace drivers as they age out or are unavailable for various reasons including illness.
For Corder, he said the responsibility of the job can scare people away.
“I think people are a little intimidated by the training involved,” Smallwood said.
To be a school bus driver, those interested must have a commercial driver’s license, be 21 years old and a background check. To earn the license, one must attend classroom and bus training which is provided for free by both districts.
A few different tests must be passed as well to earn the job.
Smallwood said those with a good work ethic and a positive personality can have a good bus driving career and make an impact on students.
To attract bus drivers, both districts recently raised the pay per hour by $2, with HCS hourly pay starting at $16.90 and $16.30 at EIS. The EIS board also approved that bus driver work days increased from four to five hour days. Since the board approved the pay change on Monday, Smallwood said he had received two applicants on Wednesday.
Since the passing of the pay raise, Corder said bus drivers from other districts have called showing interest.
Smallwood said there are substitute drivers to cover open positions. If there are not enough substitutes, he said they’d be able to consolidate some routes, which may lead to overcrowding.
In cases where they don’t have enough bus drivers, Corder said coordinators must double up routes.
He said coordinators and even a few teachers this year are going to drive a few routes to help out the district.
Those with questions can also call the HCS bus garage at 270-769-8890 and Smallwood at 270-769-2359.
Andrew Harp can be reached at 270-505-1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.