‘We are in panic mode’: Utah school districts in dire need of school bus drivers

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – We are less than 40 days to the start of the new school year.

As parents get ready to buy school supplies, school districts like Salt Lake City are recruiting bus drivers to fill a much-needed void.

“We are in panic mode,” says SLC Schools Transportation Supervisor Ken Martinez.

To get kids transported, he needs 14 more bus drivers and a dozen or so aids to accomplish 78 routes in less than 37 days.

“But being that short, it would mean most likely picking one of our high schools and having to do double runs,” he says. “Part of the students are going to be late.”

Martinez says if needed, he’ll use office staff and shop personnel to get students to school.

SLC School Buses

SLC School District offers more than 21 dollars an hour, benefits, medical, dental, life insurance, retirement, but many are not taking the jobs.

“We need 78 just to cover our routes, if I could have three or four on stand-by for call-in sicks or holiday, vacations, injuries, and so on would be great,” Martinez adds.

Bus drivers will learn the district’s COVID-19 protocols.

“We’ve got these driver barriers, which will give separation to the drivers,” he says. “After unloading each bus route, they can spray down all the seats and it’s an air-dry disinfectant, and we are trying to do everything we can to make sure it is as safe as possible.”

Each will have hand sanitizer and facemasks for those who want them.

“As for the students, we are planning on filling the buses to capacity unless the health department tells us otherwise,” says Martinez.

Bus drivers will need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and a background check to transport students.

“If you’ve got a CDL, we can get you through in a week or two depending on what endorsements and everything you had,” he says. “Have zero experience, we can get you through in about four weeks.”

SLC Schools Electric Buses Charging

Some drivers will need to learn a new way of driving the state’s only eight electric buses.

Martinez says, “You would normally take your foot off the accelerator and hit the brake, and do all kind of that. Well, these actually regenerate themselves, they charge themselves when you let off the accelerator.”

This would the district to get more than 110 miles of bus routes before their next charge.

“You know we are hopeful of having as close to a normal school year as possible,” he adds.

To make that happen, the district hopes it can get at least 14 bus drivers, onboard, to be trained by the beginning of school.

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