SHEBOYGAN — The school bus driver shortage is forcing routes to be merged, leaving students stuck on the bus for longer than district leaders would like.
Sheboygan School District Assistant Superintendent Mark Boehlke says they would like to hire eight more bus drivers. He added, "It always seems like you’re trying to catch up."
In the meantime, six bus routes had to be combined into three. Boehlke says if one driver calls out, there is no replacement at this point.
“That means the driver is doing two routes and the kids are coming late for school that day, but it causes a lot of problems and frustrations for working parents," said Boehlke.
They are working hard to attract drivers. Starting pay has gone up from $14 to $18 an hour.
“A lot of money has been spent on advertising, print and billboards. [We’re] trying to compete with manufacturing jobs and service jobs in the community too," said Boehlke.
Along with advertising, there is a $1,000 bonus incentive for current bus drivers to refer someone, who is then hired on.
We rode with Joe Lamb, a bus driver for Prigge's School Bus Service Inc. This will be his 17th school year driving Sheboygan School District students.
We asked why less people are applying to be a bus driver. Boehlke replied, “Sometimes it’s the hours.”
Lamb said, “I just don’t know if people can survive 25-30 hours a week.”
Lamb said it has also become much harder to earn a Commercial Driver’s License.
“There’s many things that you need to know about the bus, the pre-trip. It’s 60 or 70 different things that you have to point out," said Lamb.
For bus drivers like Lamb, he says it is all worth it. He hopes people apply and help the 10,000 students who attend school in Sheboygan get a safe ride.
“It's a joy driving around and having them on the bus and listening to their stories and joking around with them,” said Lamb.
To apply for an open bus driver position in Sheboygan, click here.