UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY-TV) – The school bus driver shortage is still an ongoing issue, and Durham School Services gave us an update on the current driver situation for Utica City School District.
“As of this upcoming weekend we are adding upwards of 18 to 20 drivers back that will help cover the openings of the temporary drivers returning south. we also have reached a level of 50 trainees who are working on getting their licenses up from the previous count of 25 a week ago,” said Brett Wester, Region Manager for Upstate New York.
Durham had brought in 20 drivers that were able to temporarily assist the Utica District due to being displaced by Hurricane Ida, however, now that they are returning back to Louisiana, and the bus company is back to where they started. The training process for their incoming drivers can take anywhere from 2 to 10 weeks, but Governor Kathy Hochul is trying to make changes so that drivers can get to work.
“She’s attempting to reduce delays and testing with expectations to reduce onboarding time it will help with reducing the training time by up to as much as half. This will allow us to set up permit and road tests in much less time. She has also reached out to licensed CDL drivers across the state to ask them to become school bus drivers,” said Wester.
Wester tells us that in addition to those who have money saved up from unemployment, there are various factors that have made this an on going issue.
“We lost across the state about 10 to 15 percent of our older drivers a lot of those folks don’t want to be on a bus with unvaccinated children. And then you add on other factors rates that are being driven up other industries that are trying to pull people in its a huge impact,” said Wester.
And now, drivers have been receiving outbursts and threats from parents upset over the delays and mistakes made due to the shortage. Wester says that they have had some drivers quit over the threats and this response will further delay the solution.
“It’s frustration and when we have so many calls coming in people sometimes can’t get through there’s not enough lines not enough people to answer the phones and again we just need some patience to try to get this back to the level we were at and then continue to improve from here,” said Wester.