SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — People driving down Airport Road in Gallatin may see a school bus displayed with a sign advertising bus driver jobs available– a reflection of a major driver shortage across Middle Tennessee.
With a week until school starts, the Sumner County School District is short 40 drivers to transport students.
“Normally we have about 200 drivers, we’re down to 160,” Jeremy Johnson with Sumner County schools told News 2. He said the shortage is stemming from the area’s growth and thriving economy.
“I don’t think it’s any surprise or secret to anybody in the Nashville area that it’s growing. And with the growing means there’s more students to put on buses and also that means there’s more job opportunities for the people that have been bus drivers in the past,” Johnson said.
They’re not alone. It’s happening in districts across Middle.
As of Friday, Dickson County needs 10 drivers, Cheathem needs seven, Montgomery needs eight. Several other districts tell News 2 they need of more drivers, but they’re filling positions with other staff to make up for the shortage.
“Montgomery County is a double-edged sword,” said Millard House with the Clarksville Montgomery County School System, “You’ve got LG, you’ve got Google, you’ve got Lowe’s distribution center, you’ve got Bridgestone… all of these companies are vying for the same type of employee.”
In fact, training and keeping bus drivers is a nationwide problem. According to the National Association of Pupil Transportation, limited work hours and pay are big factors.
“We’ve had 20 bus drivers train this summer, unfortunately, we’ve had 20 bus drivers take other jobs this summer,” Johnson said.
The consequences include putting other staff in the driver’s seat, combining bus routes, and longer waits.
“Buses run a little bit slower, because we have to combine routes and we have drivers that are running routes that may not be their normal route,” Johnson said, “Our transportation department looks at routes and tries to figure, ‘Okay where are places where we have three routes we can make into two.”
For now, they ask those looking for work to apply and parents to be patient.
“We offer incentives such as full-time benefits, you know, where our pay starts out about 12 dollars an hour, plus full-time benefits,” said Johnson, “We just ask that parents be patient with us in the first couple weeks as we kind of sort through this.”
Sumner County has a smartphone app called ‘Here Comes the Bus’ with real-time bus updates for parents.
If you’d like to apply to drive, call your local school district.