SYRACUSE — Not unlike many other school districts statewide, the Wawasee Community School Corporation finds itself with a shortage of bus drivers. Some districts have eliminated routes and a few have went so far as to request eliminating offering any transportation.
Wawasee has had to consolidate some routes due to a shortage of drivers and as of Tuesday, Jan. 15, there are two open routes. “It has been a little tougher this year,” noted Mike Snavley, transportation director for the school corporation.
There is normally a good base of substitute drivers who can fill in when needed, but some of those drivers “have retired from subbing” and more are expected to retire next year, Snavley said.
In a stronger economy it can mean it is harder to fill driver positions because better paying jobs with more hours are available elsewhere. Bus driving is only part-time with a split shift between the morning and afternoon and because it is only part-time, insurance and other benefits are not offered.
There is also a process involved of at least five weeks before a new hire can be placed behind the wheel of a bus. A physical exam is required and other testing is involved, as well as drug screening.
“There are many requirements to drive,” Snavley said. “It is just not a good fit for some people.”
A lot of responsibility, stress and pressure are part of being a bus driver. For example, driving a load of students in rough weather when it is still dark outside.
Bus driving can be a thankless job, he admitted. Sort of like the offensive lineman in football whose name is only called when committing a penalty, bus drivers often don’t get much notoriety outside of the school corporation, with some exceptions, unless something bad happens such as an accident.
But for the right person, it can be a good job, Snavley noted. Retired people looking for something to do for a few hours each day instead of working full time. Or business owners, stay at home parents or those who work at another part-time job could all possibly be good fits.
For those who enjoy being around kids, bus driving can be the right job. Snavley noted it is not uncommon for drivers to really get to know their kids well. Some drivers will even call the transportation office out of concern when a child doesn’t get on the bus.
“As the old cliche goes, a driver is usually the first person and last person a kid sees each day,” he said.
There is some flexibility because the schedule is the school year, which is roughly 180 days per year. Drivers have much of the summer off.
Although it takes a few weeks to get the first paycheck, training and testing are provided by the school corporation. Drivers are trained extensively and are paired with another driver before taking the wheel. Then after taking the wheel, another driver rides along for a few days just to observe.
Drivers are also needed for athletic events, field trips and other competitions. Some daily route drivers also drive to these events, but some of the drivers are not regular route drivers.
“They (drivers) like the trips because they can go where the students go,” Snavley said, such as Chicago for one example.
If interested in becoming a bus driver, contact Snavley at (574) 457-3188, extension 7900, or email [email protected].