VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Central Florida school bus drivers are feeling the pressure of the driver shortage.
Several Volusia County school bus drivers spoke at Wednesday’s school board meeting saying they’re under more pressure but don’t feel they’re getting the pay they deserve.
“I just want to tell you what’s really happening in transportation. I will use my route as an example. For the last two weeks I’ve been driving three different routes,” said one driver.
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Donning bright yellow shirts that read “I carry precious cargo,” each driver pointed out how their work has increased.
“Yesterday my high school students were thirty minutes late to school because I had to drive two routes for my previous school which made me thirty minutes late to that school,” said one.
“Blood-born pathogens I’m dealing with, cleaning up throw up from kids. Just this week, in one week, I have two children with COVID out from my bus that I’m contained in,” another driver added.
COVID-19 has added to the national shortage. Local school districts said many have quit or retired early and on top of that current drivers are calling off sick.
“One day last week we had 24 members of transportation that called in on top of our daily outage and those that have planned days off — so that was over 60 runs that had to be covered,” said a driver.
That leads to more students arriving late which school districts said can have an effect on teachers’ reviews and the district’s performance.
Volusia County said it’s trying to hire 50 more drivers and it’s currently offering incentives like a $500 signing bonus for new drivers.
The current drivers, whose wages start at $13 dollars an hour, said it’s not enough.
“We cannot force people to come drive at our schools but maybe if we offered a competitive wage, we could get people to come and maybe keep the ones that we have,” a driver said.
District leaders said the school board and the drivers’ union are at an impasse right now, so they cannot comment on the matter.