Midstate school bus driver shortage leading companies to offer high wages, bonuses

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DUNCANNON, Pa. (WHTM) — With the new school year fast approaching, bus companies are still struggling to hire drivers. Many are offering higher pay and bonuses to attract them.

It might mean students have a different driver, or possibly a delayed route throughout the year, but companies say they’ll get the job done and there should be little impact on getting kids to school.

With only a month to go until the kids head back to the classroom, school bus companies are getting ready.

“We’re very busy during the summer, making sure that we have everything in place to be running day one when school starts,” said Kristen McGaffin, manager of personnel and recruiting for Rohrer Bus.

A shortage of drivers nationwide was only exacerbated by the pandemic with some hanging up their keys.

“In some cases, it could have been child care because their children’s schools were closed or they were in an age bracket or had a health condition that they were not comfortable being on a bus,” McGaffin said.

McGaffin says her team pulled together and made it work.

“We’re very fortunate that we have people in our offices, our service department, even our vice president and president who can jump in a bus and pick up a run if necessary,” McGaffin said.

It’s the same case with Krapf School Bus.

“We also have our office and shop staff driving the routes as well so you can expect that there’s going to be less people in the office to manage, as well as not being able to answer the phones right away,” said Mindy Brittingham, hiring and recruiting manager for Krapf School Bus.

That’s why many companies are offering higher salaries and big bonuses.

“We’re starting a new driver without experience at $18.60 an hour,” Brittingham said. “We’ve also for the last several months and going forward a $1,000 sign-on bonus.”

McGaffin says a bus run may get split into two van runs or drivers might have to double up a route, but parents shouldn’t be concerned.

“Our bus drivers are highly trained professional drivers and they will be there with the bus on the first day of school and they will make sure your children get to school safely and get back home to you,” McGaffin said.

McGaffin says between classroom training, in-bus training, and obtaining a CDL license, Rohrer employees average five to six weeks to complete everything.

“Our thorough training on-site is not only paid to the trainee, but we ensure that they’re comfortable and safe behind the wheel before they ever drive students,” Brittingham said.

The Pennsylvania School Bus Association estimates it could take 10 to 12 weeks to get the proper training and certifications for first-time drivers.

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