Several Middle TN school districts see shortage of bus drivers - WSMV Channel 4

Several Middle TN school districts see shortage of bus drivers

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

With low pay, no benefits and shouldering the responsibility for out-of-control students, it's easy to see why many Middle Tennessee schools have a serious shortage of bus drivers.

The shortage is so severe in some districts, school officials are afraid students' and drivers' safety is at risk.

"It's like it can go from zero to ballistic in just the matter of a few seconds," said bus driver Wayne Hall.

At least five Midstate school districts report a bus driver shortage, including Metro Nashville Public Schools, which is 40 drivers short, Williamson County Schools at 17 drivers short and Wilson County Schools at 15 drivers short.

With zero substitute drivers in MNPS, many drivers are forced to double up on routes and are often late in getting students to school.

Now, the shortage has become such a problem in Wilson County, the director of transportation has even started driving kids to and from school himself to keep routes on time.

School bus surveillance video showing students jumping, banging their heads and fighting on Wilson County buses is a big reason transportation director Joshua Hinerman said he's having such a hard time hiring drivers.

The district has captured at least 700 incidents of fighting and horseplay on its buses this year, and Hinerman said there are also other challenges.

"Pay is probably not where it needs to be, and insurance," he said.

Bus driver positions are part-time in most districts, which in Wilson County means no benefits and pay starting at $12.55 an hour.

In an effort to hire more drivers, the county is now offering a $900 bonus incentive to hopefully attract more new drivers.

Hinerman said the driver shortage problem is so widespread, he wants the state to help districts by providing an incentive to entice good drivers.

However, until they get more drivers, Wilson County is ordering larger buses to help handle the load.

Patty Campbell is a new Wilson County bus driver but has 12 years of experience and loves working with kids.

Officials say many inexperienced drivers are the ones who end up quitting, because the job may be tougher than they thought it would be.

Hall said many parents don't realize students can lose their privilege to ride the bus by causing any type of disruption. The federal government only requires students in special education be provided a ride.

"Anything that happens on the bus is considered a part of their school day," he said.

And parents who have considered riding the bus to help drivers control kids aren't allowed on because it would be considered trespassing.

District officials are left looking for a solution to a new community problem: they need bus divers and need help creating an environment in which drivers will want to work.

If you think you have what it takes to safely drive kids to school, several local districts are hiring:

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