Wilson County Schools, like many districts, struggle to find enough bus drivers

(Photo: WKRN)

WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Many school districts not only in the state but across the country are struggling to find enough bus drivers to get students to and from school.

Tuesday is the first day of school for Wilson County, and while there are enough bus drivers for day one, next week will be a different story.

The bus transportation director is asking students and parents to be patient as they look to hire more drivers.

Wilson County bus driver David Knight has been behind the big wheel for decades.

“This is my 50th year this past school year,” Wright said.

Wright told News 2 he loves his job.

“I didn’t know I’ll be driving this long, but I got started and hated to quit,” he said.

With a shortage of bus drivers in Wilson County, the 75-year old found himself doing it all.

“I was a sub-driver, and a full-time driver and a relief driver, so I run two routes a lot of time during the day,” Wright said.

When it comes to riding his bus, there is no non-sense allowed.

“The kids don’t like me much,” he said. “Because I’m strict on my rules. I don’t play about with them.”

Wilson County Schools transportation officials said that’s part of the reason they are having trouble hiring new bus drivers.

“One relatively now pay, and secondly is the lack of discipline on the school buses,” said Transportation Director Jerry Partlow. “The students tend to get out of hand and the drivers become frustrated when dealing with these students.”

The district was able to hire seven new bus drivers.

“We’ll be able to cover all the routes tomorrow,” Partlow said. “Next week might be a different story.”

The district will be using two bus drivers who normal drive for the Tennessee School for the Blind and Genesis Learning Center to cover routes this week.

Wilson County is not alone.

“There is a severe shortage of drivers all across the country,” Partlow said.

Currently Wilson County has 130 bus drivers, ideally they would like to have 140 just in case someone calls out sick.

“I believe you need to have about 10 percent excess to cover people when they are out sick, or they have to take off to take care of a family member, or any other emergency that may occur, such as a death in the family,” the transportation director said.

Transportation officials said it takes a special person to be a bus driver and they wished they had 100 more dedicated drivers Knight.

“All around, it can be a hard job, but it can be a very rewarding job,” Partlow said.

The current pay for a Wilson County School bus driver $13.82 an hour. It’s higher for more experienced drivers.”

Partlow told News 2 a proposal has been made to the school board for a pay increase for bus drivers.

It was endorsed by the director of schools and they school system included it in its budget.

Right now they are waiting on the county commission to approve the funding.

News 2 did some checking around the Mid-State and Maury County Schools said they are fully staffed and ready to go Tuesday and said they continue hiring substitute bus drivers.

Williamson County Schools said they are constantly recruiting bus drivers and still in need of some. They will provide training.

Rutherford County uses contracted bus drivers.

A bus owner told News 2 they too are experiencing a bus driver shortage.

The owner said the incident in Chattanooga did not help with an already stressful environment for both new and current drivers.

Dickson County schools said they are in good shape for opening day, and they too are always recruiting bus drivers.