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Bus driver shortage remains an issue nationwide as Mid-Missouri students return

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Thousands of Mid-Missouri students will be starting the 2022-2023 school year within the next two weeks but getting to school might be an issue.

Last year, schools around the country were reporting bus driver shortages as the coronavirus pandemic continued. The problem remains as a new school year begins.

According to a report by the group Hop Skip Drive, 78% of school districts say the shortage has affected their transportation operations. 

The Columbia Board of Education voted in October to increase bus driver pay by 8%, from $16.25 to $18.25 per hour. Drivers with more experience may get more than a $2 increase per hour.

But the hiring process for bus drivers can take time, which affects bringing a driver on board quickly to help with the shortage. Applicants must complete the required training, background checks and more before they can get behind the wheel of a school bus.

"First thing you're going to pass is whats called a CDL written test at the DMV to get your commercial learners permit, CLP," President of School Bus Safety Jeffery Cassell said.

Once you get your commercial learners permit you'll begin the entry level drivers training (ELDT) which will be more hands on but with caution.

"At least 20 hours of classroom training to go through for the entry level driving training and at the same time you'll be doing 20 hours behind the wheel training, you'll start off for about five hours in enclosed yard using cones," Cassell said.

Once that training is complete, Cassell says you'll go out on the road for more training and then you'll take one more written test to become a school bus driver.

Cassell says the commercial learners permit is a difficult test but that is not the only factor contributing to the shortage.

"We want them to drive a great big yellow bus often around a busy street with up to 70 children in the back for not the highest pay on the planet, often no benefits and only nine months a year," Cassell said.

Applications can be found on the STA website.

Some Columbia Public Schools sports teams have already been affected by the shortage before the school year even starts.

Battle High School Athletics tweeted last week asking for people to apply as bus drivers for activities and field trips.

Hickman High School responded to the tweet that evening also citing the need for more bus drivers for athletic events.

The district has already spent more than $3,000 for Mo-X, a bus company in Columbia, to take some sports teams to away games.

The Columbia Public School District it looking to hire more than 25 drivers, you must 21-years-old and pay starts at $18.25.

All training is paid for.

Article Topic Follows: Education

Erika McGuire

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