UniteGPS – Whether in urban, suburban, or rural areas of the United States, the bus driver shortage continues to affect every school district differently, but the Missouri Valley Community School District in Iowa has found its solution: turning the role into a full-time position. 

“That’s really the only way we’ve been able to get bus drivers,” said Brent Hoesing, Superintendent and part-time bus driver at Missouri Valley Community Schools, in a UniteGPS interview.

“Right now, we’re actually sitting in a really good place as far as most drivers go. In the past, we used to get retired people or farmers who would be able to drive buses in the morning or the afternoon and then do their other duties during the day, so it’s really just about being creative.”

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Combining positions to solve bus driver shortage

In this community of 800 students, the Missouri Valley Community School works with paraeducators, custodians, maintenance personnel, among other part-time roles, to take on more responsibility as bus drivers. 

So far, with eight full-time routes completely covered, the role combining is paying off. 

Realizing how low wages intensify the hiring shortage, the Missouri Valley Community School District created financial incentives for staff members to become bus drivers. For example, individuals earn a $1 hourly raise simply for obtaining the CDL, with some making up to $15 an hour in certain circumstances. Even better, the school district will pay individuals to take the new federal driver training

Resulting from the role combining, staff members at Missouri Valley Community School District then become eligible for weekly overtime, some working between nine and ten hours a day. Unlike other school districts, Hoesing explains to UniteGPS that he’s actually dealing with a route shortage. That’s to say, not enough routes to go around for drivers eager for the extra earnings. 

“In order to have the overtime, you have to drive the morning and afternoon routes, but we just don’t have any open,” said Hoesing, who drives a school bus weekly. “So actually, we’re almost on the other side where people are getting frustrated that there are no routes open for them. We’re probably the only school in the state sitting that way right now, so we’re pretty lucky in that regard.”

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Issues with new CDL regulations

Although bus operations at Missouri Valley Community School District are going steady, the new federal CDL regulations effective Feb. 7 still concern Hoesing. Even prior to the legislative changes and technical training requirements, obtaining this credential involved ample preparation time for state requirements.

“I think that the change in the federal requirements for obtaining a bus driving license is going to make things a whole lot harder for us, they essentially doubled the requirements this month to become a bus driver,” Hoesing told UniteGPS. 

According to Hoesing, occasionally prospective bus drivers contact him, some with years of truck driving or freight hauling experience. Even if a person has the relevant skills and clean driving record, the superintendent still must inform them about the 18-hour online course. In turn, many prospective candidates end up walking away.

“The fallout from that could be tremendous,” Hoesing said. “It’s already hard to convince people to go take an 18-hour class, go to the courthouse to take all these tests, study and go take a driving test, and then attend this class at Iowa Western. But now that they’ve added more coursework onto it and more requirements, it’s just going be a nightmare to try to get people to do it.”