Recruiting Bus Drivers an Ongoing Challenge

The Drive for Drivers
Posted on 08/09/2022
Image of APS bus(from news5cleveland.com)

With school officially in session for some kids and many heading back to the classroom soon, parents are expressing growing concern over school buses being forced to sometimes sit empty and in park due to a nationwide driver shortage.

"It's a sticky situation," said Shay Davis-Macon, an Akron parent.

"We can't afford to lose a whole lot more, obviously. Actually, even one or two more would put us in a pretty critical position," said Charlie Smialek, Superintendent of Parma City Schools.

"Down 22% on regular drivers. I do like to run about 80 buses. Eighty routes. Right now I'm at 70," said Bill Andexler, Transportation Coordinator, Akron Public Schools.

District leaders and transportation officials are doing the best they can with what they have.

And in this case, it's fewer school bus drivers in the 2022 school year.

"We have enough drivers to cover the routes. The problem is though we don't have enough substitute drivers," said Andexler.

Akron's down 60% on substitute drivers so when someone calls out, it's an issue.

"What happens, unfortunately, is we call in the field -- we call doubling up. So a bus is used to going out and doing two routes, now they might have to do another one."

The pandemic prompted retirements and created health and safety concerns for many aging drivers across Northeast Ohio.

Many districts are now going to the state minimum which means only children who live more than two miles from their school between grades K-8 can take the bus.

Smialek says, like districts across the country, they're constantly recruiting and trying to bump up pay.

"The only variable we can really adjust is compensation. And, you know, that's something that we're looking at doing right now."

Area districts are admittedly competing with corporate giant Amazon, as well.

They tell News 5 that the delivery service enticed their drivers because the company offers full-time hours, higher pay, and the drivers can easily navigate the big delivery trucks.

Dr. David Bowlin, Director of Field Services and Transportation for the Ohio Department of Education, says even with districts recruiting new drivers, a hold-up is also happening with drivers trying to get their CDL.

"There's a huge backlog for that training and that testing. So that's holding up if there are candidates."

Nearly every single district across the area is hiring drivers. Watch the news video here >>.

Bus Drivers | Ohio Department of Education
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