GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several West Michigan school districts are dealing with a shortage of bus drivers. News 8 spoke with two local district superintendents who are currently having trouble finding bus drivers.
Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Shibler and Belding Area Schools Superintendent Brent Noskey said they’re looking to hire. Both districts oversee their transportation departments, it’s on them to hire bus drivers.
Shibler told News 8 it’s an issue he has dealt with for a few years now. Although, right now, it seems like it’s the worst it’s ever been.
“When we get into a pinch is when a driver gets sick or two drivers get sick and you’re also trying to get sports teams to their events and field trips,” said Noskey. “Many times, my own transportation director has to go out and drive, and that leaves us shorthanded in the office.”
Dean Transportation is also struggling to find bus drivers to hire. It provides buses and drivers to a number of school districts in West Michigan: Kent and Ottawa Area Intermediate, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Reeths-Puffer, Muskegon Heights, Kent City, Sparta, Cedar Springs and Tri-County Area Schools.
“We have some offices that we might need two or three bus drivers, then we have a couple offices that where we might need 10,” said Dean Transportation CEO Kellie Dean.
Dean said the reason it’s hard for them to find bus drivers to hire is the strong economy.
“It’s so strong that there are many, many employers out there that are looking for folks to hire. It is really competitive,” said Dean. “In our industry, we’ve had to work harder than ever to find the right people.”
Finding the right people means finding people who are willing to live the lifestyle of a school bus driver and someone who is qualified for the position. To drive a school bus for Rockford Public Schools, Belding Area Schools and most districts, bus drivers need to have their commercial driver’s license — which requires an extensive amount of training to obtain.
Dean Transportation has a list of requirements people must pass before they can be hired to drive buses.
The list includes the following FBI fingerprint check, Michigan State Police criminal background check, motor vehicle driving record check, sex offender registry check and Department of Transportation physical.
A bus driver shortage has been a struggle to fix for a while now, although Dean said it is on a slow incline.
“We might still be struggling over the next couple years, struggling but working hard to find applicants but it’s looking much better,” said Dean.