Hayfield struggling with bus driver shortage

Published 7:55 am Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ron Kurth, the manager of Palmer Bus Service in Hayfield, is concerned over a lack of drivers needed to shuttle Hayfield Community School students to and from school.

“We are at a critical point,” he recently wrote in the Hayfield District 203 Newsletter.

Hayfield Schools, which spans about 200 square miles, is short two bus drivers and three special education van drivers, according to Kurth.

Email newsletter signup

“There isn’t a real good work source here to retain drivers,” Kurth said.

Many of the drivers Kurth supervises are farmers, which means from now until the end of harvest, these drivers are too busy tending to their farms. A similar shortage happens in the spring, where from about April to the end of the school year farmers are planting crops.

“You don’t want to pull them out of the field,” Kurth said. “They’re busy getting their crop in.”

A bus driving job is normally a part-time gig, where drivers work about 20 hours a week for about two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, aside from special assignments such as shuttling sports and activities teams to and from other schools. Special education van drivers and pre-school van drivers may also drive a noon shift.

In order to become a bus driver, an applicant must have a class B driver’s license along with several endorsements, including an air brake, passenger and school bus endorsement, along with participating in a mandated eight hours of training per year and other, standard hiring procedures.

On average, Hayfield bus drivers receive up to $235 a week.

Applicants are encouraged to go to the Palmer Bus Office in Hayfield to apply.

Although this year’s driver’s shortage is stretching Hayfield’s bus and van routes, Kurth said it’s been tough to find bus drivers before.

“It’s always been an ongoing thing,” Kurth said.