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County Battles Bus Driver Shortage

Recently there has been a shortage of bus drivers for activity runs for sports in which games have been postponed. The issue was brought o light by upset students, parents, and coaches.

By Chloe Alexander

On Mar. 15, two softball games were postponed due to the lack of bus drivers available for activity runs, which produced an immediate response from parents, coaches, and players.

“I feel like it disappointed a lot of people: coaches, players, parents, and the other team,” senior Sydney Landreth said.

The postponed games brought to light the issue of a bus driver shortage that has been ongoing for about one and a half years. The effects reach farther than the extra curricular activities, with late and double-back bus routes becoming the norm for some students.

“We don’t have enough bus drivers in the schools,” varsity girls’ softball coach Patrick Waguespack said. “It’s something we’ve never addressed before.”

Earlier in the week, the Department of Transportation had tried to work with the athletic director to move the departure time to after four 4:00PM, rather than the scheduled 2:15PM and 2:45PM times.

“If we have the trips later, we are much better able to accommodate trips with bus drivers,” Director of Transportation Ronald Rhodes said.

The response was that the fields where the teams would be playing did not have lights for later games.  Adding that to the ongoing shortage of bus drivers and eight late buses due to several drivers being on sick and medical leave that day, the games had to be postponed.

“That particular game, all of the elements of not having drivers and drivers being out accumulated into one day,” Waguespack said.

The need for bus drivers is directly related to today’s economy. With the starting salary of a full-time bus driver being $13,000 a year, most bus drivers need to have a second source of income in order to make ends meet.

“We have a 21% turnover rate with new drivers,”  Rhodes said. “We lose people because it’s not enough money or because they realize it’s not the right job for them. Not everyone has a backup system.”

There are several training requirements in Virginia that school bus drivers must go through so that they can drive a bus.

“To be a driver, the state requires you to have a recent physical, positive driving record with [the Department of Motor Vehicles], a criminal background check, drug screening in one’s county, two recommendations within the county, and a reasonable amount of driving experience,” Rhodes said.

In order to work towards solving the driver shortage regarding athletics, the Department of Transportation will be offering Saturday Commercial Drivers License (CDL) classes with a $10.40 per hour compensation for interested coaches.

“Hopefully we will get a few coaches that will be willing to enroll in these classes and get their CDL’s,” said Rhodes via e-mail to the school board and athletic director. “Our goal here is to give the coaches more flexibility with their team schedules. Also, coaches can assist each other during their off season.”

This effort is hoped to accommodate the teams’ schedules during the next school year. Some coaches and players approve of this means to resolve the issue.

“I think every coach should have the opportunity to drive a bus,” Landreth said.

To help coaches meet the required driving experience, the classes will involve behind the wheel training without students for fourteen hours, a DMV road test, and behind the wheel training with students for ten hours.

While the driver shortage has caused for the postponement of two softball games, the Department of Transportation is focused on working with the bus driver shortage to make sure students arrive to and from school for this school year

“Our number one goal for this department is to get kids to and from school in the safest manner possible,”  Rhodes said.


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