School districts across the CSRA experiencing bus driver shortage

Monday, September 9, 2019
News 12 at 6 O'Clock/NBC 26 at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- School districts across the CSRA are experiencing a school bus driver shortage.

Hundreds of buses are out on routes each day, but with not quite enough people to drive them.

Filling those vacant positions is not an easy task either. It's hundreds of positions, and in some cases they are part-time.

"Bus driving is not for everyone," said Penny Jackson, associate superintendent Columbia County Schools. "You know, the thought of having 30+ kids sitting behind you on a school bus. I'm sure that can be intimidating to a lot of people."

Jackson says Columbia County has two school bus driving positions open and several more backup openings.

"Unless we have an enormous amount of field trips, all of our routes get covered," Jackson said.

In other counties, some drivers are having to take on two routes to get kids to school on time.

Richmond County says they are 14 drivers short right now. The Aiken County School District says they have 18 openings.

Once those spots are filled, the job requires 4 to 6 weeks of CDL training.

Even that has become on issue for school districts.

"They get their CDL and then move on to in their mind, bigger and better things," Jackson said.

Columbia County is having to be creative to keep routes on time.

"Sometimes it may be that people in our DOT office, like our mechanics, they will sometimes fill in because they have a CDL," Jackson said.

Richmond County is routing their way around the problems. They say they won't rush hires just to be at capacity either.

Being short on drivers, for now, is just the reality for some districts.

"When I'm driving through Alabama, you see buses on the side of the road, saying 'We are hiring. We need bus drivers,'" Jackson said. "So it's a nationwide problem."

Columbia County is hosting a job fair next Tuesday and conducting on-site interviews for bus drivers. The school district hopes that fills some of the open positions.

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