School District faces critical shortage of bus drivers

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) They haul our most precious cargo, but the school district says it can't find enough of them. There's a critical shortage of school bus drivers. Blame it on our strong economy.

"Unemployment is at record lows in northern Nevada and that makes it challenging to recruit," says the district's Chief Human Resources Officer Emily Ellison.

And it's not getting better. On average they say they're getting 10 applications a month.

"That's about a third of what we were getting last year," says Transportation Director Rick Martin, "and any time between getting the interview and offering them we're losing five to six to other opportunities in the market because it's that competitive."

The school district has some disadvantages in recruiting. Starting pay is $15.43 an hour,less than what much of the competition is offering.

Then there are the hours. Working full time means a split shift, three or four hours in the morning, three or four hours in the afternoon. And then there's summer vacation and school breaks. It works for some, but not others.

But Ellison notes there are the benefits--health insurance and the jobs are public employee retirement-eligible. And they provide training that leads to a commercial driver's license.

And for those who want to keep working year-round, Martin says the district will find something for you to do.

"A lot of times we'll provide support work at the schools doing loading zones because there's safety issues and then we do other opportunities."

They're also willing to work it out for those who may only want to take the morning shift--or the evening.

There is one qualifier and it's the concern most often asked by applicants.

"Driving with 80 kids behind them," says Martin. "I mean it is 'What's it like driving with kids on board?"

So, they're looking for people who can relate to kids. They point out the bus driver is the first person from the school district who sees them every day, and the last at night. It's an important connection.

The best drivers, they say, take real ownership of their buses and responsibility for their passengers.

The district will be holding an informational and recruiting even at its transportation offices at 1150 Matley Lane March 14 from 3 to 5PM.