There are still lots of questions about what this next school year will look like. One concern is whether there will be enough bus drivers to get students to and from school.
DATTCO, which provides bus service to dozes of school districts across the state, has more than 100 open driver jobs, with school starting at the end of next month. To see the list of jobs, click here.
There are similar staffing issues at other bus companies, and it's not just a Connecticut problem - it's happening across the country.
DATTCO said it lost a couple hundred of its employees when schools shut down at the start of the pandemic, and it's not clear if they'll come back.
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"We made some changes as a result of this to try and make the job as appealing as it can be. One of those things is offering free training for people to get their CDL. We will provide you help with getting the permit test and getting that professional certification as well as some classroom training before you can get in the vehicle," Kyle DeVivo, DATTCO owner and assistant vice president of sales, said.
DeVivo said they are looking for people who are the right fit for the jobs and hours and hoping they will apply.
"Maybe someone who has retired and looking for some extra work that’s right there in their community. They can pick up some hours driving school buses in the morning or afternoon as well as charters. It could be someone who has child care challenges and is looking to be able to bring the kids to to work with them or on the bus. We’re looking for the right people. They’re definitely out there. We’re just working to find the right fit," he said.
When asked if he was confident they would have the drivers they need by the start of the school year, DeVivo said they were trending in the right direction, but that it may be a challenge to get all the hiring done.
"We work with a large number of school districts across the state. I think for a company like ours, that really gives us the flexibility to share some resources and help out where necessary. When you have as big of a scope of employees as us and a big of a scope for geography as we have, it definitely creates some challenges. But there’s also some benefits to that," he said.
"It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy," he added. "It’s definitely going to be a challenge. We're certainly hiring in most of our locations right now. Between now and then, it’s the primary focus of our company to get folks in the door and get them trained and get them certified to do is a critical job."
This is an issue that's also on the radar of the Connecticut DMV, which issues commercial driver's licences for school bus drivers. DMV Deputy Commissioner Tony Guerrera said the agency is prepared to process more CDL applications, but would-be bus drivers just aren't coming in.
"We may have to look at in regards that maybe we have to have better benefits, better pay, because unfortunately a lot of them were senior citizens that didn't want to come back or part-time individual that was driving a school bus just to get some part-time work, but their not doing that today," Guerrera said.
Many bus companies are actually offering big bonuses for drivers who already have their CDL.