TOLEDO (13abc Action News) - It's a problem for school districts all over the United States: not enough bus drivers. A lot of districts here at home are struggling to get people behind the wheel.
Bus driver shortages are nothing new. Most districts have been dealing with the issue for years, so some districts have come up with creative solutions when it comes to hiring.
Aura Norris is the Executive Director of Human Resources and Operations for the Perrysburg School District,"We will pay for your training and we will pay for your commercial driver's license or CDL. All a person needs is the want and desire to be a driver."
But finding people who have that desire is becoming increasingly difficult. Norris says this is the biggest shortage in her 27 years on the job in Perrysburg. She speculates the shortage is because some people feel the job comes with too much responsibility and liability. "We have all of our routes covered, but we don't have any subs right now, so if someone calls in sick we have to have a mechanic or a dispatcher drive."
Subs are also in short supply in Toledo, "Right now we are down 15-20 substitute drivers."
Leaders in both districts say they offer flexible hours along with good pay and, in many cases, benefits, "It's a part time job but it comes with full time benefits. After a 90-day probationary period you get medical, dental and vision insurance. That is one of the ways Toledo distinguishes itself from other districts. We also cover the cost of your training."
With many places facing the same problem, Norris says the shortage is often a topic of discussion among the districts, "we get together a lot and say what are you doing? That really does help when it comes to finding a solution. Two minds are better than one. It is great just to brainstorm together."
The districts are getting creative when it comes to where they look for drivers....That includes retirees, off duty firefighters, college students and even other professional drivers, "sometimes we will get over-the-road truckers who want to be closer to home so its a great job for them."
Even with the shortage, safety is always the top priority,"We don't take just anybody. There is a rigorous screening process with a background check. The drivers also receive training through the state and then Perrysburg has its own additional training."
So if you like to drive and you enjoy kids, Johnson says there are plenty of options out there for you in Toledo, "It's a fun job, it's very rewarding. You are able to build a relationship with a lot of kids and have a positive impact on their lives."