Two area school systems face bus driver shortage ahead of school starting back

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) – Just days before summer break is over for some Tri-Cities students, two school systems say a bus driver shortage is putting the brakes on transportation for your children.

Both Washington and Hawkins County school systems told us that they desperately need more bus drivers.

If you’ve driven along Highway 11-E toward Jonesborough, you may have noticed a sign reading, “Drivers Needed.”

As of Tuesday morning, Washington County officials said they still need six bus drivers in order to be at full staff by the time school starts next week.

As Washington County Schools’ Transportation Supervisor Randy Adams and his team are currently working to make sure they have everything they need to get the kids off to school this year.

“Well, the tires, the brakes,” Adams said. “We make sure we got good breaks on them.”

Adams said there’s one thing that’s not adding up: He doesn’t have enough bus drivers.

“We’re short six right now,” he said.

He said the sign posted asking for drivers has helped bring awareness to the driver need.

“It’s helped us quite a bit,” Adams said. “We have people calling you know asking about everything. They said, ‘Well, we never did know y’all was that short.'”

But it’s a problem Adams and other nearby districts can’t solve in just one day’s time.

Just an hour away in Hawkins County, Transportation Director Clifford Bunch said they, too, have a driver shortage, but said from the time a person applies to the time they can get behind the wheel is approximately four weeks.

“It would take a minimum — a minimum — of four weeks,” Bunch said. “It’s the training that they have to go through. They have to take at least four written tests.”

Bunch told us they are expecting even more regulations and changes statewide over the next few years, especially when it comes to bus safety.

In fact, starting in January 2018 in Tennessee, the minimum age for a bus driver will be raised from 21 to 25.

A new state required sticker will also be placed on the rear of every school bus, asking drivers to call if a bus is driving erratically or speeding.

As local districts continue to work through these changes, they said they are still doing their best to recruit new drivers, as well as work hard to make it work with the drivers they do have.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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