TAMPA BAY — Bus driver shortages continue to challenge some Tampa Bay area school districts. In some cases, it’s led to parents and students having to face abnormal delays in the morning.

  • Polk School District has about 60 openings, spokesman says
  • Hillsborough School District held job fair to fill openings
  • Hillsborough hopes to hire around 80 drivers

In Polk County, school district spokesman Jason Geary said they still had about 60 bus driver openings. 

“We have 14 bus driver applicants that are in training that began last week," Geary explained. "Seven of these applicants already have their CDL. We might be able to offer them employment by the end of this week if they successfully finish training and other necessary requirements."

Another class began this week with seven bus driver applicants. Seventeen bus driver applicants are scheduled to start training on Monday, August 27, according to Geary. 

He added that the transportation staff is sorting through about 100 applications from people who’ve expressed interest in the job. 

Starting pay is $10 an hour. When the driver is appointed to a full-time driver, they can earn $12.18 per hour.

Geary said that appointment usually takes about a few weeks, due to the shortage. 

The bus driver shortage has led to delays. On the morning of Aug. 23, 27 bus routes faced delays, including one for 50-60 minutes. Geary said that’s an improvement from the morning of the first day of school when 110 routes were delayed.

Education requirements?

During the school board’s work session on Aug. 21,  board members and staff discussed revising the education requirement for bus drivers. Rather than making a high school diploma or GED a requirement for being a permanent bus driver, it was suggested to make the high school diploma or GED "preferred."

Substitute bus drivers aren’t required to have a high school diploma or GED, but in order to get benefits and become a permanent driver, a high school diploma or GED is currently required. 

Geary said some staff members believe making the high school diploma or GED preferred rather than required could increase the pool of qualified applicants for bus driver positions and help to fill vacant positions.

The school board is expected to formally discuss the topic during its next school board meeting.

Hillsborough hiring, too 

Over in Tampa, human resources and transportation personnel from Hillsborough County Public Schools were looking for bus driver applicants at a job fair in Tampa. 

“We have lots of drivers that are getting ready to go through retirement,” said Beverly Harvin, a transportation services specialist with the district. 

Sherry Steele was one of the people attending the job fair who said she was interested in becoming a bus driver. 

“I’m new to Florida and I’m looking for a job and I really like kids, so I just wanted to apply,” said Steele. 

Hillsborough County Public Schools looks to hire about 80 drivers, the majority of the positions dedicated to filling in when drivers are sick or on vacation.

Starting pay is $13.48 an hour, and applicants must at least 21 years old and have at least a 10th grade education.