PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Despite all the uncertainty about COVID-19 and our schools, one thing is constant: a nationwide bus shortage driver.
In some school districts in the Pittsburgh area, up to 400 bus routes are short. That means drivers will have to make 400 more trips a day to meet all of the students’ transportation needs.
Steadily rising COVID cases have forced many districts to switch to full distance learning, but what happens after the holidays?
“We have around 90 vehicles, so we usually have a driver for each vehicle. We’ll probably be with drivers in the 1960s, ”said Mark Cherpak, director of the Baldwin-Whitehall School District.
That’s a 33% decrease in Baldwin-Whitehall drivers. Cherpak said his shortage started three years ago.
« It became a common theme that it was much harder for the elders to get the younger ones into these positions when they were retiring, » Cherpak said.
He asks for help and goes so far as to literally park his request on the high school lawn.
He’s not alone – the Bethel Park School District has posted a virtual help sign on their homepage. Another local bus company posted a job posting trying to recruit drivers with a sign up bonus of 1. Lure $ 500.
Most school districts have bus routes, but some, like Baldwin, manage their own fleets.
« It’s kind of a business of our own that we run on the side, » said Cherpak. « It’s part of the school district, but it comes with a lot of challenges. ”
Challenges that recently forced Baldwin to double the runs, leaving some students on the bus for an hour.
“We would like to limit the transport to less than an hour if possible. In some cases this year this has been compromised just because we don’t have enough vehicles or drivers to do all of this, ”said Cherpak.
Baldwin is just one example. We have seen the number of school bus drivers drop thousands across the country. That means school bus companies must do everything possible to keep their drivers, including filing lawsuits.
« They have some fighting with school bus companies trying to find drivers, » said Ray Middleman, attorney for Eickert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC.
Attorney Middleman represents what could be described as a despised bus company. He filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a local bus company poached the drivers from another.
« They invest in the driver for the cost of tuition, the cost of training, sometimes having to go back multiple times, medical examinations, » said Middleman.
Denille Girardat-Myers oversees 300 school bus companies across the country. She says they are desperate for the money to get qualified people in the driver’s seat.
« You invest easily 2. 500 to 3. $ 000 into a person before you even put them behind the wheel, « Girardat-Myers said.
She makes the shortage back to lack of funding and rigorous testing, which takes 12 weeks at best.
« The fear is when we say, » You have to pass four tests here, then you have to pass one skill test. You also have to pass a tour test, ”said Girardat-Myers.
For a shit shared, often with no perks, that may pay off less than other CDL-required trucking jobs.
« Is it a CDL for school buses only? And that is being addressed so that we are not so closely connected to the trucking industry, ”said Girardat-Myers.
Back in Baldwin, Cherpak starts its drivers at $ 21. 31 per hour, well above the national average of $ 16 per hour. He says the salary is not the problem for his district, but he says he knows what it is and asks the state lawmaker to help.
« Reducing some of these restrictions on testing would really help the districts struggling with this issue, » Cherpak said.
The Pennsylvania School Bus Association tells KDKA’s Meghan Schiller drivers that they are choosing not to work this year because they fear getting sick, which is a minimal (less than 5 percent) contributor to the current shortage.
School Bus, School, Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Bus Driver
World News – CA – COVID-19 In Pennsylvania: National School Bus Driver Shortage Hit Pittsburgh Area
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