St. Clair R-XIII School District is among the countywide shortage of bus drivers, although the issue is not as severe with other surrounding school districts.
Superintendent Kyle Kruse said the shortage has been an ongoing problem. The district has enough drivers for routes and trips, but Kruse said he would like five or six more on hand.
“We are trying to ramp up our efforts to recruit drivers,” Kruse said.
The district’s bus drivers have formed a committee in order to recruit drivers. Kruse said the committee attends parent-teacher conferences and events around town to gain interest.
“Their hoping that if parents have some kids who are in school and in activities, maybe those parents would be interested in actually driving the bus for those activities,” Kruse said.
To also help attract new drivers, there have been changes made to the district’s bus program including a $4 to $5 an hour pay increase for experienced drivers.
“It did result in a substantial increase for several drivers,” Kruse said.
The pay scale used to stop after six years, however, Kruse said it now stops after 16 years of experience.
In addition to pay, he said that drivers’ suggestions are being taken into consideration to help improve the work environment.
“We’re now working on a new way of assigning or having drivers select trips they take, and those are all drivers’ suggestions,” Kruse said.
Some reasons why the district is not attracting applicants may be because it is a part time job when many are looking for full time employment and it also requires special training, provided by the district, according to Kruse.
“It is a lot of responsibility. I think some people are worried about driving a vehicle of that size,” Kruse said.
He added that the buses are “very, very safe vehicles and they are really no more difficult to drive than some very large trucks or other big vehicles.
“The principles are all the same, it’s just a matter of watching your surroundings a little bit differently.”
Applicants must pass a written test, as well as a driving test.
“If you’re a parent with a regular driver’s license, we should be able to get you certified to drive a bus and experienced driving a bus within a month or so,” Kruse said.
Union R-XI School District has been searching to fill two to three positions for almost a year.
For some positions, there have been no applicants at all. Administrators hope that a $1,000 signing bonus after 90 days with the district and a change to the district’s salary schedule will bring in new drivers and monitors.
According to a School Bus Fleet magazine survey, 22 percent of school bus companies call the shortage “severe,” and 5 percent said they are “desperate” to find new drivers. Every company that was surveyed agreed there was a shortage.
For Union, the issue has become a priority where it impacts day-to-day activities. It has gotten to the point where the board of education had to approve changes to the positions to make them more attractive.
First Student, which provides all bus transportation for the Washington School District and a portion of Union School District, is struggling to attract drivers as well.
The branch is having trouble attracting drivers even with offering unemployment compensation over the summer and free training.
First Student is paying for drivers’ training and hosting open houses so would-be drivers can feel out a bus before signing up.
Both Union School District and First Student officials have been attending and even hosting job fairs to attract drivers.