US School bus companies across U.S. need drivers

06:05  10 august  2017
06:05  10 august  2017 Source:   USA TODAY

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As with school bus contractors and districts across the U . S ., he has been affected by the widespread driver shortage, and he Durham to Provide Special- Needs Transportation in New Hampshire. The school bus company will transport more than 100 students for Salem School District starting with

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YORK, Pa. — School transportation companies seek drivers year-round but put the pedal to the metal to hire for the start of the school year.

This year, many school bus companies around the U.S. say they face a driver shortage.

Twenty-two percent called the shortage "severe," and 5% said they are "desperate" to find drivers, according to a School Bus Fleet magazine survey of the nation's 50 largest school bus operators.

Not one of the companies surveyed said there is no shortage.

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Bus drivers transport people between various places—including, work, school , shopping malls—and across state and national borders. A bus driver must also meet hearing and vision requirements. In addition, bus drivers often need a high school diploma or the equivalent.

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There is an estimated shortage of 650 drivers just in Pennsylvania, said Fred Bennett, president of the Pennsylvania School Bus Association.

Relatively low salaries and a two-part schedule that requires working a morning shift and returning to work in the afternoon are among the biggest challenges companies face.

"Those two issues can be a hurdle," said Nicole Schlosser, the magazine's managing editor.

The economy has improved since the end of the Great Recession, opening up opportunities for better-paying jobs elsewhere in transportation or in other fields, Schlosser said.

In Hawaii, the state is temporarily consolidating and suspending school bus routes for four schools on Maui because of a shortage of qualified drivers, the magazine reported.

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In Indiana, Muncie Community Schools shut down for a second consecutive day Friday after Superintendent Steve Baule said "the situation was unsafe" on the first day of classes on Wednesday.

He was referring to a transportation fiasco, including lengthy delays in busing students to and from school, students waiting for buses that never picked them up, students reportedly giving directions to bus drivers, and some concerned parents even calling 911 about the whereabouts of their children.

Contributing factors included a new bus contractor, the first day of school, many elementary students traveling farther than in the past due to three school closings, many drivers quitting just days before school started, and a transitory population of students.

Muncie School Board President Debbie Feick on Thursday blamed the busing failure on "a perfect storm" of events, including "20 percent of the drivers quitting between Friday and Tuesday (the day before school started), which really put them in a bind."

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You also need a School Bus Driver Certificate from the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). 4. After completing the training and the physical, complete and sign an Application for Certificate to Drive a School Bus (available through your bus company ).

Here in Pennsylvania, York County residents driving around lately may have noticed several Reliance Student Transportation buses parked outside schools.

They sport a banner advertising openings for drivers at the company, which transports students in the Dallastown Area, West York Area and York Suburban school districts.

Reliance is looking to add an additional 10 drivers to its roster of 210, said Todd Wisotzkey, the company's vice president of operations.

Bus banners aren't the only thing Reliance, which is headquartered in Yoe, Pa., is using to recruit drivers.

The company boosted starting pay by 2%, to $54 a day, said Wisotzkey, the director of operations.

It also increased the bonus drivers earn for showing up for all of their shifts.

And current employees can make $500 for referring a candidate with a commercial driver's license — or a $250 bonus for those who need to be trained.

"It's a lengthy process to get a good driver through," Wisotzkey said.

The licensing and certification process generally takes six to eight weeks and can take as long as 12 weeks, said Bennett, the state school bus association president.

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As with all commercial drivers who drive across State or national boundaries, motor coach drivers must comply with U . S . Department of Around 71 percent of all bus drivers were school bus drivers working primarily for school systems or for companies providing school bus services under contract.

Most companies seek charter bus drivers who have two to five years of experience driving a bus . There is a lot more to being a charter bus driver than driving a bus . Drivers need to keep written There are literally hundreds of truck driving schools across the country, each with different programs.

The process requires, among other things, at least 14 hours of classroom training, at least six hours of on-the-road training and passing numerous written exams as well as a driving test.

Applicants must also pass a drug test and physical, criminal history checks by the FBI and Pennsylvania State Police, and a child abuse history check.

Reliance isn't the only area school bus operator getting creative when it comes to recruiting.

Red Lion Bus has been advertising for drivers on Indeed.com, an online employment website and on the bus company's website.

The company also offers referral bonuses, pays for driver training and testing and offers attendance and safe driver bonuses.

"We have lots of plans in place to attract drivers," operations manager Stacey Golden said.

Red Lion Bus has at least three openings for drivers for each of the four school districts it serves: Red Lion, Spring Grove, Eastern York and South Eastern, Golden said.

Meanwhile, School Express, which is headquartered in New Oxford, has taken to the airwaves, running recruitment ads on radio.

School Bus Fleet's survey found many of the nation's largest school bus companies are using many of the same recruitment tactics as companies in York and Adams counties.

Forty percent of those surveyed said they are advertising for drivers.

Thirty-seven percent offer signing and/or referral bonuses. Another 17% increased pay and/or benefits.

Starting pay at the 50 largest companies rose to $16.90 an hour in 2017, up from $16.24 in 2016, School Bus Fleet said.

Contributing: Seth Slabaugh, The (Muncie, Ind.) Star Press. Follow Gary Haber on Twitter: @GaryMHaber

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