St. Charles School District having to adjust routes because of continuing bus driver shortage

Like other school districts across the nation, St. Charles School District is having trouble filling its school bus routes because of a shortage of bus drivers.

Last Friday, the district could not find drivers for several of its routes.

“For the first time this school year, we had seven routes that we were not able to cover with our substitute drivers or our staff,” Superintendent Jason Pearson told School Board members during the board’s Business Services Committee meeting on Monday. “We had too many people out. By the afternoon, we were able to make the route adjustments as necessary and we’re hoping to make some internal changes as well as we continue to advertise and hire drivers as fast as we can when people apply.”

The National Association for Pupil Transportation, which represents school bus drivers, has said the pandemic is partly to blame because older drivers have to consider the health risk. Pearson said the school district has recently hired six new bus drivers, but still needs 12 more drivers to be considered fully staffed.

“One of our challenges is that from the time someone applies and is hired, it takes about six weeks to get them through the commercial driver’s license process and the department of motor vehicles process to get them fully licensed,” Pearson said.

School Board member Kate Bell asked if the process was a little bit shorter for those who already have a CDL license.

“If we’re in a good situation with the DMV, it takes three to four weeks if they have their CDL,” Pearson replied.

According to a survey recently conducted by the National Association for Pupil Transportation, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services and the National School Transportation Association, 50% of those responding to the survey said the rate of pay is a major factor affecting their ability to recruit and retain drivers.

In addition, 45% cited the length of time to secure a CDL license as being a contributing factor. The availability of benefits and the hours available to work were also cited as contributing factors.

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.