Nationwide Shortage of Bus Drivers Worries School Officials

Nationwide Shortage of Bus Drivers Worries School Officials NBCConnecticut.com

Escondido Union High School officials are worried there won't be enough bus drivers to transport students to school in the future after reports of a bus driver shortage sweep the nation.

A survey from the School Bus Fleet's Top 50 Contractors found that many contractors are boosting their incentives and advertising to attract new bus drivers, as shortages continue to be an issue.

"The problem is that the process in which the driver has to go through in order to obtain that certificate is a lengthy one," said Lina Rendon, the director of transportation for the Escondido Union High School District.

"We're the only industry that pulls up with a big yellow bus and that parents allow our children to get on without ever knowing us. So it's a very big responsibility," explained Rendon.

Twenty-two percent of contractors reported a severe shortage in bus drivers, according to the survey.

A lot of benefits are included for full-time bus drivers including sick leave, medical and life insurance and retirement programs, according to the state. The survey shows that 17 percent of contractors are increasing pay and benefits for drivers to add extra incentives.

One bus driver, Adam Chavez, told NBC 7 that his job with the Escondido Union High District is fulfilling with great perks, including getting to experience some school trips and sporting events with the students he drives around.

"They have all kinds of benefits for us. We have, you know, the payscale is really good too," said Chavez. "So I’ve been enjoying it for 17 years, so I want to keep doing this until I can’t."

California has tough restrictions on qualifications for bus drivers, according to the DMV. They have to pass multiple tests to prove they will be able to transport children, properly operate the lights, stop signs, other warning devices on the school bus and other important safety skills.

According to the state, drivers must go through a training program once hired and undergo drug testing.

School officials fear the lengthy process to gain qualifications may have discouraged some potential drivers.

NBC 7 reached out to several school districts in the region regarding this issue. Currently, there are no indications of a bus driver shortage in schools across San Diego County.