PWCS Bus Driver Shortage

PWCS school bus

Bristow Beat, Ashleigh Henegar

PWCS school bus

Ellie Crockett

Since 2016, the American public-school system has faced a nation-wide shortage of bus drivers.
A shortage, in the Swanville area of Maine, became so bad that schools were forced to close because some students would not be able to make it to school without bus transportation. PWCS is working to prevent issues like this from happening in the county.
The shortage has become more apparent in PWCS during the 2019-2020 school year, as signs in front of schools and other PWCS affiliated buildings, advertise the bus driving occupation.
To fulfill the need for drivers, the county would have to employ 55 more bus drivers. With these vacant positions, drivers are forced to drive “double-backs,” an addition to their original route.
The shortage causes a few problems in school. Kathy Snow, the Administrative Coordinator for the Transportation Department of Human Resources, commented, “Children arrive to school later than scheduled which interrupts instructional time. The kids also arrive home late and spend more time on a bus than they are used to. Occasionally, field trips have to be rescheduled if a driver is not available.”
This causes problems for students and adds more stress for the drivers.
PWCS holds seminars for people interested in bus driving. Candidates are free to ask questions regarding the job and are informed on the requirements. To create more interest, PWCS Superintendent Steve Walts drove a bus at a PWCS event in November.
The search has become so desperate that according to Snow, “We are also asking for teachers to consider driving a school bus in addition to their teaching duties,” she continues, “They are paid for the time that they train as well as paid once they begin driving.”
The shortage is directly linked to the drop in unemployment in the US. Many people choose not to take jobs as bus drivers, as the job is payed hourly, and the wage is not competitive with other available jobs. Being a driver also requires a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The job ends in June with school, meaning that drivers are unemployed from the end of June to August when school resumes. This can cause financial problems for bus drivers with families to support.
However, if a bus driver has children who attend school in PWCS, the parent and children would have the same schedule. With this, children of drivers over three months old, and under schooling age can ride the bus with their parent. This allows the drivers to not pay for childcare.
Substitute drivers are paid $18.57 per hour and drivers who work more than six hours per day earn insurance and retirement benefits.