Schools deal with shortage of bus drivers

Posted at 6:46 PM, Sep 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-09 19:46:46-04

Bixby Public Schools administration reports they ideally would employ 40 bus drivers. As of Wednesday, the school district employed 34 drivers.

The shortage is not causing major delays when transporting students to and from school, but it is a problem that could become larger with time.

"All the other districts in this metro area, all of them have similar problems," Bixby Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Mike Anthony said. 

Anthony and the district's transportation staff said part of the problem is finding applicants who have been able to receive a commercial driver license. 

"Lack of applicants, difficulty in passing the driving test, getting the license. So it is not something that is solely Bixby's issue. It effects every district within the area," Anthony said. 

To obtain a CDL, the driver must be 18-years-old and pass several tests. The testing includes a school bus endorsement, passenger endorsement, and an air breaks test.

But a recent addition to the testing school administrators said is a verbal test requiring drivers to know the mechanical and internal workings of the bus engine and other parts.

"It has become very detailed and harder for applicants to pass," Anthony said. "Because they have to identify components in the engine and other parts of the bus, which we don't feel is necessary in order to license someone. We have mechanics, we have our own staff that monitors the functioning of the bus."

Transportation staff in Bixby said with their current number of bus drivers, most buses are 85 percent full. Current trends show Bixby and other nearby districts are expanding though, so without hiring more drivers a shortage could soon have a larger impact. 

While drivers need to know how to maintain certain parts of the bus, changes to the Department of Public Safety test could lead to more qualified applicants, Anthony said. 

"They need to know how to do their pre-inspections for lights, breaking, all those kind of things, but the components within the engine it is making them hard to pass that test," Anthony said. 

Bixby is actively accepting applications for qualified bus drivers. Information can be found on the district's website.