FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) Cumberland County Schools needs more bus drivers. Transportation leaders for the school district told CBS17 they are short 56 school bus drivers.
“There are some routes that will be a struggle to get covered with the shortage,” said Jennifer Carter, school bus driver trainer for Cumberland County Schools.
Cumberland County Schools operates 460 school buses daily and nearly half of the school district’s student body rides the bus.
“We are hauling the most precious cargo. We can’t just put anyone behind the steering wheel,” Carter said.
The school district transportation leaders believe the lack of interest in driving school buses and the amount of training required are contributors to the driver shortage.
“It takes a while to get certified to drive school buses. So, it’s not the type of job you just walk in and tomorrow we put you on the road,” said Kristi Harden, executive director of transportation for Cumberland County Schools.
Carter said it could take up to two months to become a driver. Short-staffed DMV offices are also holding up the process.
“DMV does have a little bit of a backlog with getting people in to actually physically get the license,” Carter said.
Cumberland County Schools could require more of its licensed employees to get behind the wheel. Many of the school district’s janitors, teacher’s assistants, and cafeteria staff are already required to be certified and drive buses as a dual position.
“The strain is it will take teacher assistants away from their positions a little bit, as well as cafeteria workers and janitors,” Carter said.
Bus drivers are paid anywhere from $15 per hour to $18 per hour at Cumberland County Schools. While there are sign-on bonuses for teachers and other staffers, currently there are no sign-on bonuses for bus drivers.
The school system said there are some bus routes that might have to be consolidated. First, they need to assess the ridership for the first couple of weeks.
“We do not anticipate any bus will not run on the first day of school,” Harden said.
If you’re interested in becoming a school bus driver for Cumberland County Schools, go to the Human Resources portion of their website.