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Bus driver shortage worsens as new salary spikes take effect

Going into the fresh start of a new school year, the Colleton County School District has implemented its new salary increases for bus drivers, but the district is already facing busing challenges. In the midst of these challenges, however, the district is receiving new school buses to replace some of its oldest buses.
As of Monday, the school district is already short about 20 school bus drivers. This means the start of the year will begin with 16 buses doing double routes: this means that one school bus is doing two routes morning and night for student pickup and returns home.
The district has been running about eight double routes daily for the last two school years.
In addition to these 16 double routes, the school district also has five open routes, meaning there is no driver at all assigned to the bus. These vacancies were created by people retiring or resigning, according to school district transportation officials.
“The first priority is to fill the five vacancies that we have,” said Gary Bradley, director of transportation for the Colleton County School District. Bradley is the newest director of the department and is in charge of the department’s bus routes and bus fleets.
According to Bradley, the school district has been holding several driver recruitment fairs. They recently also hosted two consecutive classes for interested drivers or for new hires “We’ve had good success with that,” he says, adding that the recent recruitment fairs have resulted in “six or seven” new hires, he said. “The new bus driver rates have also helped us to retain drivers, from last year,” he said.
The Colleton County School Board voted at its June meeting to approve the district’s fiscal year budget. This budget includes hourly pay increases for its bus drivers and a new and increased pay scale for drivers who stay with the district year-after-year. These increases are already in effect, said Bradley.
As for the double runs, each school in the county will be impacted by the bus driver shortage. “Each school will have at least one double run,” he said.
However, despite the shortage, the district has received eight new school buses. Two of the eight new buses are specifically for special needs students. “We are slowly replacing our older buses,” said Bradley. “They have the most updated technology that exists. We are making progress every day and slowly,” he added. “We are working to have a newer fleet and to have all our bus driver slots filled. But, we don’t want to just put anyone in that seat. We want a quality driver.” 

Heather Walters (1389 Posts)