School bus garages across the Upper Cumberland look to hire additional drivers as they face shortages for various reasons.
Jackson County Transportation Director Phyllis Goad says the district’s biggest need is substitute drivers.
“It’s very important to have somebody in place that you can give a call on short notice,” Goad says. “Last week we had two drivers out with the flu. We had to do some rearranging of people that knew areas that would be able to cover those. It’s very important to have something in place where you can just pick up without any of a hiccup for transporting those kids to school.”
Putnam County’s Transportation Supervisor Kim Bradford says illness has also taken a toll on her driver roster on several occasions.
“There have actually been several days where every employee in this department has been on a bus with the exception of me and one other person,” Bradford says. “All our mechanics drive and everyone in the office drives. We’re just looking for a few more good people to join our team.”
Goad says it can sometimes be a struggle for districts to hire both full and part-time drivers.
“One of the things that I think prevents people from doing that is maybe they’re afraid of getting in a bus with a bunch of kids,” Goad says. “They seem to say ‘Oh, I wouldn’t haul kids today.’ So I think they have that fear of the unknown getting in a bus full of kids.”
DeKalb County Schools began their search for additional drivers last month, citing low pay and changing state laws as the reason more drivers are hard to find. Overton County Schools are also in need of several substitute drivers.
Both Jackson and Putnam County school districts offer full training for anyone interested in becoming a bus driver.