School districts assess bus driver shortage

Local News
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Maintaining enough school bus drivers is an issue schools not just in Texoma but across the nation face regularly.

Even when schools are properly staffed, having enough drivers for extracurricular activities can be a challenge and having those drivers maintain their certification has become difficult.

While school district officials needing bus drivers is a common issue, it’s not one folk with WFISD are having to deal with right now.

“Bus driver shortage is a nationwide issue,” Durham School Services General Manager Brian Gibson said. “It’s not just a Texas or Wichita Falls issue. It’s something that has been challenging our organization for a long time. We are fortunate right now. We are overstaffed by about 15 percent over what we need, but that is not something that is always consistent. We are happy to be where we are at right now.”

In those times where they have been short on drivers, there are a number of incentives offered to attract new drivers.

“It’s not out of the ordinary to offer hire on bonuses,” Gibson said.  “We have increased our wages since 2012 by almost 40 percent, so our starting wage has gone up drastically. Give people more hours.  It is a part-time job so sometimes we can try to give them more hours to help them out.”

For some schools, needing bus drivers is a problem that gets worked out throughout the year.

“Always at the beginning of the year there are some issues with looking for bus drivers particularly with keeping up with their licenses,” Holiday ISD Superintendent Kevin Dyes said. “There are things that happen throughout the year where you may lose bus drivers and you have to pick up some and things like that. Overall the economic conditions there are more jobs, more people taking jobs. Kind of a shortage of people taking jobs in general and when you get into those part-time positions like school bus drivers and things like that there is some competition.”

Maintaining a bus drivers certification has also become part of the issue.

“More difficult to get and maintain your school bus driver certification and the training has become, I wouldn’t say more intense, but a little more lengthy,” Dyes said. “The DOT side has become a little more complicated in terms of maintaining your school bus driver certification.”

While not every school district in Texoma is dealing with this problem now, it could arise again at any time.

Many other superintendents in the area said through email they are having some kind of problem maintaining the number of bus drivers the school needs with the main issue being the drivers either getting or keeping their CDL.

Below are links to apply for bus driving careers. 

Durham School Services 

Iowa Park ISD

Holiday ISD

Burkburnett ISD

Henrietta ISD

Olney ISD

Some of our teachers are bus drivers and some are not full-time staff members. The certification tests have become more difficult and that has caused a few to stay out of bus driving.

-Archer City ISD Superintendent CD Knobloch

This is a problem for BISD. We have asked our coaches to help out and drive routes in some cases. We have increased our bus driver pay and have provided incentive’s for our maintenance, custodial, and food service staff to get their CDL licenses.

-Burkburnett ISD Superintendent  Tylor Chaplin

We have a terrible time filling bus positions. The testing of the drivers is so rigorous few are able to pass. Those that do pass have taken it multiple times. The CDL criteria for testing is far to difficult. It didn’t use to be that rigorous. Something has changed.  It is the CDL portion that is the problem. There is extra training for school bus drivers but that is not the problem. I have had a few try to get certified that have had CDL licenses in the past that have given up after two or three attempts. They just said it wasn’t worth the frustration. 

-Chillicothe ISD Superintendent Todd Wilson

We are experiencing the same issues in Iowa Park.  We have a hard time maintaining the number of bus drivers necessary to manage our normal bus routes.  When extracurricular activities are added in, it definitely puts a stain on the transportation department.  We are constantly advertising for additional bus drivers.    This time of year, we have many activities and field trips planned and we have to use coaches and teachers to help cover our needs.

-Iowa Park CISD Superintendent Steve Moody

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