NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The shortage of school bus drivers in North Texas causes students to be late to class, spend hours commuting every day, or struggle to find a ride home.
It’s a nationwide problem that local school districts are trying to solve.
At Princeton High School, Eric Lockman is a basketball coach and teaches professional preparation, but this year he has assumed a third position as a substitute bus driver.
“You might get a call at 10:30 in the morning or at lunchtime and someone asks me, ‘Are you available to drive the bus today?'” Lockman said.
I used to get a call to help once or twice a year.
Now he comes one to two times a week.
Like school districts across the country, Princeton has struggled to hire drivers.
This year, he increased his salary to bus drivers from $ 17.50 to $ 22 an hour, offered a $ 1,000 signing bonus, and, for the first time, paid applicants to obtain their commercial driver’s license. It is still understaffed.
“Obviously it is the children and the parents who are suffering,” Lockman said.
With two sick drivers one morning, the district warned of extreme pickup delays, a problem that has already occurred multiple times since classes began.
A Carroll ISD Department of Transportation Twitter page reveals similar problems with regular “driverless available” route notices and buses running up to an hour and a half late.
In Garland ISD, meanwhile, mechanics are dropping their tools to drive the bus routes.
The district says it is widely advertising its 22 job openings. More drivers would mean more routes with fewer stops and shorter trips.
“Just those 22 drivers is the difference between a kid being on a bus for an hour, you know, instead of half an hour,” said Shelley Garrett, assistant superintendent for safety and operations.
Garland offers drivers pay starting at $ 21.21 an hour, full-time benefits for part-time work, and a $ 2,000 bonus. However, it goes the extra mile to establish its own driving school, so that it can train, test and certify drivers for their CDL in-house.
“We will become an external provider of that test. So we will take him by the hand and take him to the test. I’ll personally bake you a cake, ”Garrett said.
Doing so, he says, will reduce delays in the licensing process and the chance that a driver will decide to go elsewhere.
“We don’t want them to get away from us. You know, really, ”he said.
The fight to hire drivers, he says, is not new and it is unclear how it will play out in the future.
With more families moving to North Texas, the demand for drivers to take their children to school is likely to continue to grow.
To apply to become a Garland ISD driver, Click here.
To apply to become a Princeton ISD driver, Click here.