SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) – Multiple school districts in Central Texas are feeling the pain of not having enough bus drivers. At the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District, the transportation department reports that they are 15 drivers short.
The shortage is forcing the entire transportation staff and the mechanics to add a bus route to their primary job.
“The mechanics, on average, if they drive in the morning and afternoon, they lose four hours of wrench time of working on buses and our other vehicles, so it’s been difficult,” said SMCISD Transportation Director Carter Hutson.
Hutson says recruiting drivers is difficult due to competition from new jobs like the Amazon Warehouse. He also says increased physical requirements for commercial drivers from the Department of Transportation have made it more difficult to add staff.
“Areas that they are honing in on — on the DOT physicals is sleep apnea, blood pressure, hyperextension, of course diabetes and those types of things,” said Hutson.
Lead mechanic George Lingenfelder’s number one concern is safety, making sure the buses are up to par before any students climb on board, but the shortage of drivers is creating a new challenge this school year.
“They are tired of working 11 hours every day all week long,” said Lingenfelder. “I’m sure they enjoy the over time though, but that overtime would be better spent repairing the buses and keeping them safe first.”
With long hours comes exhaustion, and Lingenfelder says he’s beginning to see it on his mechanics faces.
“Right around Thursday they are feeling the effects of that. I’m afraid that one of them is going to fall asleep at the wheel someday on a Thursday or Friday later in the week, or one of them is going to get hurt out here because they’re tired,” said Lingenfelder.
On Monday, in hopes of filling the shortage, the school district raised the starting wage for bus drivers without any experience from $14 to $16. The district is also offering “perfect attendance” incentives of $100 every month for employees who show up every day. To apply for a position online, visit the district’s website.
Other districts in Hays County say they are also seeing a shortage of drivers. Dripping Springs ISD says the district will need to hire a “significant number of new drivers” next school year due to two new schools opening adding additional routes. The starting wage for a bus driver in Dripping Springs is $16.42.
Hays CISD reports that their district is short 28 drivers and at times also has administrators and mechanics driving bus routes. The starting wage for a bus driver at Hays CISD is $14.25.