Wilson County facing shortage of school bus drivers, part of worsening nationwide issue

Posted at 3:12 PM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-29 10:19:16-04

WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's becoming a crisis in education, but, it's not in the classroom. The issue is how will students get to school?

And, how will they learn if they can't?

The chronic shortage of school bus drivers is worsening, and transportation experts across the country say there's no end in sight.

There is no shortage of school buses. The problem is there are not enough drivers and that creates quite a frustration for school districts and parents as well.

"Our family depends on the bus," Michael Harris said. His son is one of the thousands who rely on buses to take them to and from school every day in Wilson County.

But three times last week, Harris received an email from the school district, all arriving around noon and alerting them on short notice that their son's bus won't be running after school -- reading in part: "We simply do not have anyone available to complete this busing assignment. Sorry for the inconvenience and have a nice day."

So someone had to pick up Harris' son.

"It's a major inconvenience," Harris said.

The Harris family is not alone. This is a growing problem across the state and nationwide.

"In the past two weeks we have lost four drivers," Bart Barker with Wilson County Schools said.

Four drivers who simply could not be spared.

Like any other occupation -- employees leave or get sick or call out. Unlike many other occupations, Barker said there are not many back-up school bus drivers. "The responsibility of transporting that precious cargo is a decision not to be taken lightly," Barker said.

In Wilson County, 145 buses hit the road each school day. But some days there are not enough drivers and routes are canceled. "We do need drivers," Barker said. Drivers who can handle a split shift and the stress of a busload of kids.

The very best are often poached by trucking companies.

So what's the solution? Possibly greater compensation. These days you can make up to $25 a hour driving with benefits. It remains to be seen if that will be enough to attract more drivers.

It goes without saying if you are a good driver and you are looking for a job Wilson -- and many other counties -- are hiring school bus drivers.