KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A nationwide school bus driver shortage is affecting school systems in East Tennessee.
There aren’t enough drivers to go around for Knox County Schools, which is causing delays and frustration.
“We don’t have enough bus drivers for all of our bus routes. So we’ve been dealing with some of our normal back-to-school jitters- People learning their new bus assignments, their new bus drivers, their new bus routes and bus stops,” Ryan Dillingham, the Director of Transportation for Knox County Schools said.
Dillingham says they need a total of 31 more bus drivers to get their students to and from school on time,
“We have 355 different bus routes and those different bus routes are contracted with 57 separate contractors.”
One of the larger contractors is Henry Bus Lines. They have more than 30 busses which run 28 of Knox County School’s bus routes. Henry Bus Lines Manager, Liz Peterson says they need around 7 more employees to be fully staffed.
“I know it’s hard when you think that we’re running late, but you got to remember, sometimes we’re running late because Johnny was late getting to the bus stop and we saw him running,” She explained. “So we waited that extra minute and if that happens at five different stops, that’s five minutes to us. But if it was your Johnny that was late, you’d want us to wait the extra minute.”
Sims Bus Lines has a smaller fleet, but is looking for about 3 more employees.
“For Knox County, you have to be 25 years of age, you have to be able to pass a DOT physical and a drug screen as well as a physical performance test that we use with Knox County. There’s a certain class that Knox County provides us sup-contractors where they train our drivers for us,” owner, Jacob Sims said,
He explained the training can take up to a month, but the reward of getting students to where they need to go is why they hope more people will get on board.
“We love the kids and we appreciate the parents, we hope, as much as they appreciate us,” Sims said with a smile. “This has been a hard school year already. I think we’re three days in and it’s been tough, but all the parents that I’ve dealt with have been super understanding and super patient with us. So I’m just thankful for our parents.”
We’re told other businesses that require a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, are also struggling with a worker shortage because the standards are so much higher than just getting a regular driver’s license.
Knox County Schools offers training for potential drivers to help them get certified. Anyone interested can apply for “Transportation U” here.
Potential bus drivers can also reach out to Sims Bus lines and Henry bus lines through the following avenues:
Sims Bus Lines
Jacob Sims 865-389-1539 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Henry Bus Lines
Email email@example.com or visit their Facebook page here.