Bismarck/Mandan school bus drivers navigate employment obstacles

Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 4:15 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - School is back in session and that means bus drivers are back on the road. Fox Business reports nationally that there continues to be a bus driver shortage.

Bismarck and Mandan’s public schools contract student transportation services through Harlow’s Bus Service, which handles more than 7,500 kids every day. It takes a lot of drivers to deliver that many students to and from school every day.

“We definitely can use more drivers to drive our routes. As far as activities, we have a pretty good pool of sub drivers and activity drivers,” said Jason Schafer, transportation coordinator with BPS.

BPS currently has one full-time bus driver position open and is always hiring subs and drivers for sporting events.

“We have not had to cancel any of those trips this school year, some weekends do become difficult. So you can never have enough drivers,” said Schafer.

Harlow’s services 10 school districts throughout North Dakota.

“Probably Bismarck Mandan is probably one of the more challenging locations to hire in, and we’re always looking to hire drivers in almost every location, but right now, we are improving over last year, and so we continue to see that trend,” said Director of Operations Ken Bischof.

Harlow’s Bus Service is employing more drivers than last year because the company is offering more incentives to draw bus drivers to the job, like a sign-on bonuses and pay raises.

“We could hire another six drivers, and we could keep them busy, but we wouldn’t do it to keep our staff members, our full-time employees, our technicians, our driver trainers, they would be able to just do their job drive, and that would be a blessing,” said Bischof.

Public school routes have the highest need right now. Most bus drivers drive double routes and service around 100 kids per day.

The bus routes continually change throughout the year, and Harlows expects to need more drivers when it’s gets colder out because more children will be taking the bus.