With a little over a month until Carroll students return to school, the need for bus drivers for the upcoming school year is becoming more apparent.
And while Mike Hardesty, director of transportation with Carroll County Public Schools, said this is something that happens every year, the 2018-2019 school year is likely to see more of a shortage of drivers due to the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act.
The legislation was initially passed by the Democrat-controlled Maryland General Assembly during the 2017 legislative session, but Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the sick leave bill. The 2018 General Assembly session opened with an override of the veto, meaning Maryland companies with 15 or more employees are required to provide them with earned sick and safe leave, among other specifications.
“We know some of our major contractors with a large number of buses to man for the opening of school are working hard to make sure they have an adequate number of full-time and part-time drivers,” Hardesty said.
For more than two hours, RSCC systematically went through all 10 possibilities, and assigned them a number — positive or negative — to weight them, based on their impact on categories like ride time, building condition, feeder patterns and more.
Johnson said her company employs 60 drivers, all of whom work in Carroll. For the upcoming year, she said, her company could easily use four or five more drivers.
Johnson said this type of job is great for someone who may work shifts that change or are at night, in the morning or during the weekends, offering free-time during specific hours.
“We’re more than happy to use people when they’re available,” she said.
Drivers can drive mornings — which usually run 6 to 9:30 a.m., or evenings — which run from about 1:45 to 4 or 5 p.m., she said. Some drivers just do sports or field trips or weekend events.
Hardesty said while there is some concern from contractors right now, the start of school is still more than a month away. It is his expectation that CCPS will not miss any routes, he added. And, he said, contractors often help each other out if just a handful of them are short on drivers.
They’re good about sharing substitutes if they have to, Hardesty said.
Most recent numbers show there are 384 drivers who drive Carroll County routes: 228 assigned to regular, full-time routes and 156 part-time or substitute drivers, he said. A person who is not full-time may just drive a morning or afternoon route, or may only come in a few times a year.
In the 2017-2018 school year, Hardesty said, there were 261 bus routes. The drivers cover those, as well as athletic trips and field trips.
CCPS tries to help bus contractors by sending out calls for employment to parents on a fairly regular basis, Hardesty said, adding that so far, they’ve seen a good response.
Hardesty said those interested in becoming drivers need to pass a number of qualifications, including being 21 or older, having no evidence of a criminal history, passing a physical examination, having a negative controlled substance test, having a commercial driver’s license with passenger and school bus endorsement, no more than two current points on their license and a satisfactory past driving record.
Striking a defiant tone in their deliberations at a Thursday meeting, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted to pursue a coalition to push back against the new Maryland paid sick leave law and leaving open the possibility of suing the Maryland General Assembly.
In addition to the requirements, one of the biggest needs is for a driver to have the disposition to work with children and manage student behavior all while operating a bus.
“The basic requirement we want is someone with the driving skills and someone that enjoys being around students,” Hardest said. “It’s always a challenge to find the right people … to drive school buses.”
Hardesty said driving is a great option for individuals who have retired from a profession and who are looking to do something in their retirement.