ATLANTA — Many Atlanta-area school districts are seeing historically high driver shortages.
Several districts are also throwing out big incentives to draw more applicants.
“I've been with APS for 23 years," Trenton Dale, a school bus driver for Atlanta Public Schools, said.
He says he loves being a bus driver for the district.
"To see the kids grow up and graduate, I mean, that's the most beautiful thing you will see," he said.
But drivers like Dale will be covering a lot more ground in 2021, making up for a driver shortage impacting most districts in the state.
“We're used to competing with city bus services, with charter bus services," Skye Duckett, human resource officer for APS, said. "But now we're competing with a lot of delivery services. It really has changed the market for bus drivers …but it hasn't changed the need for parents to have someone who can get their children safely from home to school and back.”
At last check, at the start of the school year:
Atlanta Public Schools still needed to fill 28 bus driver positions.
Gwinnett County Schools still needed 24 drivers.
Fulton County Schools needed 26.
And Clayton County Schools needed 30.
In some cases, the shortages could mean route modifications.
“We will effectively communicate those shortages and route information to the parents," Denise Hall, transportation director for Clayton County Schools, said.
To draw more applicants, most districts recently raised their starting pay to at least $18 an hour.
A commercial license (CDL) is preferred but not necessary. Drivers are trained by the district, and paid for that training time.
Clayton County Schools said they are offering incentives up to $2,000 per driver.
APS said they're offering a $1,000 bonus to qualifying applicants.
“We are the first people that drive our students see in the morning in the afternoon, incredible bonds are formed," APS transportation director John Franklin said.
He said they’re eager to get the jobs filled and are making adjustments in the meantime.
"We've been working over the whole summer to make sure that we're covered, that strategies are in place, that we're utilizing and maximizing the efficiency of all of our school buses," he said.
Parents are encouraged to double check their child’s bus route, as it may be a little different this year.