Officials at Guilford County Schools (GCS) have blamed a shortage of school bus drivers as the reason some students were left at a bus stop for 40 minutes.
The students who were going to Bessemer Elementary School on Wednesday were waiting at their stop on Delancy Street in Greensboro. But after their bus didn't show up, a neighbor shuttled the students to school in his van because it was too cold. An upset parent said the delays have been happening too frequently on his children's route.
"The bus is supposed to be here at anywhere from 6:50 and 7:05 but it's been times I go out there and it's 7:40 and the bus is not there," said Antwan Smith.
Jeff Harris, the director of Transportation at GCS said the driver for that route called in sick on Wednesday and there weren't enough substitute drivers to fill in for the morning. He adds that another driver on a different route had to double up to get to all the bus stops hence the delay.
"On Wednesday, notification was not provided to the school to let them know that this particular bus was going to be late. Since then we have emphasized to the zone supervisor that it is imperative to provide the schools every day with information on any buses that might be running late," said Harris.
Harris said parents should download the Remind App to get notifications on when there would be delays.
"We have been experiencing a shortage of drivers for about three years now and various routes are delayed at different times. Some routes are delayed almost every day, while several will be delayed on occasion." Harris said the school district has been experiencing challenges with filling up 53 bus driver positions but they are stepping up their recruitment efforts.
"We are looking at other employees who can drive buses for us and still do the regular jobs. We are increasing our recruiting efforts and we're looking at the process of training drivers and trying to limit the amount of time it takes," said Harris.
According to the National Association for Pupil Transportation, the driver shortage is a nationwide problem. They found that the top factors causing the shortage included inadequate benefits, the non-competitive rate of pay, as well as hours available to work. The process of obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL) is also a major obstacle. The wait times for taking the CDL exam can take up to six months.
School Bus Fleet Magazine reports that 22 percent of private bus contractors call the school bus driver shortage "severe."
In Guilford County, the starting hourly pay for school bus drivers in $12.50, and the drivers are only needed for an average of 6 hours a day, for only 10 months in the year. According to NAPT, the turn over rate is also high because many people are opting for other high paying jobs with better hours and benefits and less stringent licensing process.