Wilson County Schools has formed a task force to address a bus driver shortage, a problem that is plaguing school districts across the nation.
The problem is so bad in Wilson County that routes sometimes have to be canceled because there aren’t enough drivers, according to WKRN News 2. The district has 142 bus drivers, but needs 20 more to be at full staff. The district hasn’t been fully staffed since 2012.
“We’ve just had a hard time keeping drivers,” district spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson told WKRN. “It’s certainly not an ideal situation. We don’t like it. We’re frustrated by it, too.
Only 8 percent of school districts that responded to a 2015 survey by School Bus Fleet magazine said they did not have a bus driver shortage, meaning 92 percent did.
Pay is an issue, but there are other factors as well, according to an article in the magazine in November 2016.
“The job is getting more complex all the time,” the article said. “In addition to driving safely and meeting a schedule, drivers must handle disciplinary issues, be vigilant about security along their routes, make sure seat belts are used (and used correctly), and more.”
“A school bus driver has very consequential responsibilities every day,” the article continued. “It takes a level of dedication and skill at interpersonal relations not required in most other commercial driving situations.”
The Nashville Scene in October 2015 chronicled the “mass exodus” of bus drivers leaving Metro Nashville Public Schools. Drivers were leaving because of flat wages and better offers in trucking and other driving industries, according to the article.
In Wilson County, bus drivers start at $13.38 an hour. Higher pay is one idea being considered, but it wouldn’t kick in until next school year and would have to be approved by the school board.
Like districts everywhere, Wilson County faces the challenge of making good hiring decisions.
“We have to be picky about who drives our buses,” Johnson told WKRN. “We can’t just put anyone behind the wheel.”