Southern Illinois schools experiencing bus driver shortage

Bus driver shortages in southern IL

CARTERVILLE, IL (KFVS) - Public schools in southern Illinois are experiencing a school bus driver shortage.

The Carterville Community Unit School District #5 is one of several districts in the region experiencing a shortage, Carterville District Superintendent Keith Liddell said.

"You have fewer drivers available to drive the routes," Liddell said.

Liddell said the shortage is causing drivers to double up on bus routes. He said in some cases students are arriving to school later than normal.

"It's not just a Carterville issue," Liddell said. "Personally I think it's everywhere."

Carterville owns and operates its own bus service. The Marion CUSD #2 contracts their bus routes to a private service called Illinois Central Bus.

Senior contract manager for ICB, Jon Wagner, said he has enough drivers at the present but it could change at any time.

"We're always looking for bus drivers," Wagner said. "It seems to be a constant thing."

ICB serves the region including schools in West Frankfort, Williamson County and Hardin County.

"School bus drivers are in high demand," Wagner said.

Wagner said qualified drivers can apply for positions online by clicking here. Drivers with ICB are awarded a $300 bonus following 90 days of service.

The superintendent of the Anna-Jonesboro High School District #81, Rob Wright, said finding bus drivers has always been difficult.

The AJHS District owns and operates its own buses. The district currently has a full driving staff but went more than a year without filling a position.

Wright said the AJHS District resorted to their custodians to drive buses when positions couldn't be filled. Wright said the custodians have all the proper training but it took away from their regular duties.

"The bus driver may be one of the most difficult positions to fill and keep filled," Wright said.

Wright said becoming a bus driver isn't an easy task and the payoff is not lucrative. He said drivers must pass a back round check, pass a physical, a driving test, and undergo training that can take between 4 and 6 weeks to accomplish.

Most drivers will work 3 to 4 hours per day between two split shifts -- morning and afternoon.

"It takes the right kind of individual to be able to do it," Wright said. "Not just anybody can hop on a bus."

Wright said filling bus driver positions has been an issue in every district he's worked in his education career.

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