District working to lessen impact of national bus driver shortage on families

Aug. 3, 2022 – Sign-on bonuses and hiring more part-time drivers are just a couple of ways district leaders are hoping to recruit bus drivers in the midst of a national bus driver shortage.

For Erika Harding, these strategies are critical.

The district’s Director of Transportation knows first-hand how the shortage of drivers directly impacts Duval families: Longer bus rides and longer wait times. That was a reality last school year, and it will unfortunately be a reality this upcoming school year, Harding said.

“COVID – 19 presented a new set of challenges from hiring of which the industry has not yet recovered,” said Harding. “The general labor shortage has made it difficult for the contractors to recruit, hire, and train individuals who are interested in becoming professional school bus operators and monitors.”

She continued, “To ensure each of the remaining routes has an operator, at least 50 drivers need to be hired. We also need a pool of backup drivers when primary drivers are out for any reason.”

This then becomes a frustrating situation for students and families, said Harding. Therefore, in the face of these challenges, her staff is working closely with the district’s two transportation providers – Student Transportation of America (STA) and Durham – on a variety of ways to recruit additional drivers and lighten the load of current drivers.

  • To expand the pool of available bus drivers, trained non-CDL drivers will provide van service for ESE and remote students. Contractors will also begin using part-time drivers to help increase the availability of full-time drivers.
  • In addition to offering sign-on bonuses to qualified candidates, STA and Durham, have implemented incentive programs to retain and recruit professional school bus operators and monitors. Current employees can earn referral bonuses for successfully recruiting new employees. Current employees are also being presented with recognition gifts for good attendance, no accidents, and receiving compliments from schools.
  • Workplace improvements, renovations, and team events are also being implemented. This includes the addition of coffee, ice, and water machines, as well as cookouts, and other celebrations.

“Providing service is more challenging in this environment, which is why we truly appreciate the professional men and women who have made the decision to provide such a valuable service to our community,” says district Operations Supervisor Tishun Gilbert. “It would be wonderful to add more dependable individuals to the ranks of those who positively impact our students.”

Note that drivers assigned to bus routes are not district employees, but instead work for Durham School Services and STA, which provide contracted transportation services to Duval County Public Schools. Those interested in becoming part of the Duval Driving Team can reach out to the following:

  • Student Transportation of America
    • Website: https://sticareers.com/
    • Phone (Lee Road): 904-720-2177
    • Phone (North): 904-723-4352
    • Phone (Peavy): 904-661-2370

The Transportation team will continue to inform families of bus delays via www.duvalschools.org/busdelays.

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