AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the first day of school inches closer, many Central Texas school districts are struggling to find enough bus drivers.
Transportation director for Round Rock Independent School District, Scott Copeland, is still looking to fill more than 20 bus driver positions.
“When my day starts off, the first thing I do — me and my supervisors — we look at who we can hire out there. Who’s applied for jobs,” says Copeland. “We hire people in as quick as we can.”
Even with recent job fairs, he says it’s hard just getting people interested. “We put banners out and we only had three people show up.”
With pay and other incentives competitive between local districts, drivers moving to new jobs, others retiring, plus a lack of bus driver testing facilities in the area, Copeland says these are all factors that make it difficult to have enough drivers.
Some districts KXAN talked to say this is an issue they see year after year, that’s why many just leave the hiring sign up outside of their school or bus depots hoping that anyone who is interested will walk in and apply.
Copeland also thinks some hold off from applying because they are intimidated by the idea of transporting precious cargo.
“I think it’s hard to get people to come in and drive a school bus because they’re afraid of the students. They’re afraid they don’t know how to manage students. But when they get here we train them, we tell them what to do,” explains Copeland.
For Jess Talley, who has been driving a school bus for 14 years, the students are the best part. “The biggest joy about driving a school bus are the kids, are the students and being with them,” Talley says.
He feels many tend to be nervous about driving such a big vehicle.
“It’s a big bus. It’s a big vehicle, but it’s really not that difficult once you’ve gone through the training,” says Talley. “Sometimes they fear to just take that step and find out what it’s all about. Most people if they would try it, they’d find that it’s a good place to be.”
Two districts we spoke with—Georgetown and Bastrop—both told us they are fully staffed with bus drivers for the school year.