Seriously…where is my bus?

X-ray follows up on the bus driver shortage and the impact this has on students and their activities


Jenna Hubbard

Shortages in drivers have caused issues throughout D303.

Jenna Hubbard, Staff Writer

In X-Ray’s previous issue, we discussed the bus driver shortage, and how it has affected certain learning experiences here at East.

Over the past month, X-Ray reached out to, and got responses from both John Pahlman, D303’s Assistant Superintendent of Operations, and one of the district’s bus drivers, who wished to remain unnamed.

They have provided a little more insight into the specifics and the behind-the-scenes of the situation.

According to Pahlman, this isn’t an issue only D303 is facing. This shortage is being felt “across the state and country.”

Pahlman said, “At least 10 routes […] are currently doubled up, which leads to students being on buses for longer periods of time when traveling to and from school.”

Pahlman also said that transportation office staff have been stepping away from their positions for a day to fill in for drivers as needed.

However, this solution is not the whole range of D303’s attempts at a resolution. The district is working to hire as many drivers as possible via flyers. The goal is to hire 25 new drivers.

One bus driver who was willing to be interviewed said, “No one gives transportation a second thought until parents begin complaining.”

According to the driver, D303 drivers have to work 30 hours a week before receiving benefits such as insurance, and 40 hours before they can be paid overtime.

According to the Illinois Department of Labor, these are common numbers for most jobs.

The driver asks people to remember that bus driver hours are typically less of set shifts, and more of routes that they can hope will be long enough to award them these benefits or additional pay.

“Routes of six hours or more are few and far between,” they said.

Working a seven-hour route Monday through Friday still leaves a driver five hours, a whole extra route, and short of overtime pay.

Even before the shortage became as visible as it is now, some of these issues were still cause for concern. When asked if circumstances surrounding the shortage had led this driver to consider quitting, they said no.

They added, “I’m not sure drivers have left due to the lack of drivers. Over the years more have left due to management.”

So where is the district left with solutions?

Pahlman said the answer lies in hiring.

“The additional bus drivers would allow for buses to start transportation for athletics and activities earlier in the afternoon to ensure students arrive at their destinations on time.”

The driver said, “Personally, I don’t believe the shortage of school bus drivers is due to the pandemic, only amplified by the media. At the beginning of each school year the district starts with a deficit of drivers–retirement, better opportunities, who knows why.

“Again, this has been common before the pandemic. The lack of drivers is a burden on the sub-drivers and the office staff, as the office must also pitch in and drive. […] As one coworker told me, they don’t believe there is a shortage–raise the pay and most of all treat people with respect.”