Wisconsin DOT addressing school bus driver shortage

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 5:25 PM CST
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HOLMEN, Wis. (WEAU) - School districts across the state are facing a shortage of bus drivers, leading the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to take action.

Mark Quade has been driving the same bus route for the School District of Holmen for 11 years, saying the hours are steady, it keeps him busy, and it’s a job he enjoys.

“I like being around kids, I have grandkids of my own, and so this was a chance to get to know some kids,” Quade added. “It kind of keeps me young.”

However, regular drivers like Quade are becoming more and more scarce for Holmen’s Director of Transportation Daniel Garrett.

“We’re relying on our sub bus drivers on a daily basis,” Garrett said. “If it was not for our subs, and them stepping up to help us as much as they are, I don’t know how we would make it through this month, this year, the day.”

Garrett says Holmen has been losing drivers as the school year has gone on, which he partially attributes to COVID protocols.

“They’re worried because they’re going to be around kids, and don’t think we’re doing enough to protect them,” Garrett explained. ”Some think we’re going overboard and they shouldn’t have to wear masks on the bus, so we’re getting both of those.”

The issue is being exacerbated by other drivers using sick time, or retiring.

DMV Administrator Kristina Boardman says those trends are being seen across the state, so the DOT is trying new methods to get more drivers behind the wheel.

Until March 31, 2022, a portion of the state’s school bus driver test is being put on hold.

“There’s a pre-trip inspection where you pop the hood, and you have to recognize certain fluid levels, and many things that a school bus driver may not ever really come in contact with on a regular basis,” Boardman detailed.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is temporarily allowing states to modify the CDL test for school bus drivers, but the written and road tests will remain the same.

Boardman says the DMV has also sent out letters to nearly 1,000 former drivers who have let their school bus license lapse.

The letter is encouraging drivers to renew their license, adding many school bus companies have implemented employment incentives, increased wagers, and sign-on and referral bonuses.

Anyone interested in learning more about bus driver openings within the School District of Holmen can find the information on its website.

Garrett says he’s looking for two full-time drivers, two-three subs, and additional workers to drive district vans as well.

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