CENTRAL TEXAS (KXAN) — School districts across Central Texas continue to face a school bus driver shortage, and many have had to make changes to address the problem including cutting some of their bus routes.
Tuesday, Dripping Springs ISD and Lake Travis ISD will return to the classroom. Both of the school districts are actively recruiting bus drivers, but new this school year are federal requirements that went into effect earlier this year.
In January, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced new drivers seeking a commercial driver’s license (CDL) would have to go through the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) process.
Lake Travis ISD’s Assistant Superintendent for Operations Brad Bailey is aware of the regulations. He is currently working to recruit roughly 30 new school bus drivers for this school year. The need has caused the district to have to move to a one week on, one week off bus schedule.
“We take no pride in making this decision, we’re just — we don’t have a choice,” Bailey explained. “We just don’t have drivers to put on buses to go pick up kids. There are drivers who are doing multiple routes right now, and I understand it’s going to place some extra burdens on our families, especially transporting their students to and from school.”
Bailey is not alone. Liberty Hill ISD’s Director of Transportation Meleia Cox is also aware of the new training requirements. While Cox knows the new regulations require more time, she said it ensures safety to the highest level.
“I have on-site trainers, and they do train the drivers, and they put in probably at least 40 hours behind the wheel with them, training them,” she explained. “Now with the ELDT regulations, that usually comes down to about another 16 hours of video, additional videos and probably four or five more hours of training. There is also, the state requires a 20-hour certification class.”
At present, Cox has 37 drivers and is looking for five more “just to cover the growth that’s expected for this school year.”
In an effort to deal with the shortage, many districts have decided to implement pay raises this fall including Liberty Hill ISD at $21 an hour and Lake Travis ISD at $23 an hour — up nearly $2. Several districts all offer training on-site and pay for the training.
Earlier this year, a waiver was offered in an effort to help drivers obtain their CDL to help alleviate some of the school bus driver shortages at the time. KXAN did reach out to find out if there are plans to implement the same wavier again this fall and is waiting to hear back.