A group created to analyze the Wilson County Schools’ bus driver shortage was to present its findings and possible solutions to the school board this week.
The board discussed the shortage issue during last month’s meeting after parents raised concerns about bus routes. Board chairman Larry Tomlinson led the push to create a committee that would look into issues relative to bus drivers and report potential solutions.
During the meeting, Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said bus driver shortage is a national issue shaped by the uptick in the nation’s economy.
“They have choices to make, and their choices being full-time work at higher rate, truck driving and anything that requires that [commercial driver’s license],” she said.
Wright said the situation is intensified when you add factors that surround bus drivers daily.
“It is a hard job. We have parents and children who are disrespectful to bus drivers. We deal with that quite a bit. We can change behavior in kids, but seldom can we change behavior in adults,” said Wright, who said some parents make condescending remarks against bus drivers, which has caused some drivers to quit.
The district has attempted to address the driver shortage, especially with the return of transportation director Jerry Partlow last year.
Partlow, upon his return, said the system would likely need to increase a few routes due to growth in ridership in the county. Wright said the district has enough funding and buses, but it just doesn’t have enough people willing to get behind the wheel.
Wilson County Schools’ spokesperson Jennifer Johnson said the district currently has 142 drivers, and an additional 20 are needed to be fully staffed. Johnson said a group of about 10 veteran bus drivers met with Partlow and Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall to discuss the issues surrounding bus drivers and possible remedies.
Wright and other school officials noted the district has raised wages in the past, but it was not the satisfier to retain bus drivers.
Johnson said the district would train potential drivers and those in need of a commercial driver’s license.
By Xavier Smith