Wasatch County has “dire” need for more school bus drivers
School bus drivers are in short supply in Wasatch County. That’s forcing drivers to get out earlier in the morning, get home later, and drive longer routes with more kids packed in.
After working with what he called a “skeleton crew” for three years, Wasatch County School District Transportation Director Adam Hagan says he urgently needs to hire more drivers.
As the population and school enrollment grow, demand is increasing. Wasatch County buses are delivering over 2,000 students to school every day, up from 1,800 last year.
Fewer drivers means longer routes. Hagan says a sacrifice is that four routes are forced to mix high schoolers and middle-schoolers, though the district prefers to keep age groups separate.
“What that forces me to do is pick up my high-schoolers earlier than I would if they had their own dedicated route, and it puts them on the bus longer because the more students on the bus typically equates to more stops, so you’re stopping and going more, and just the amount of time on a bus increases,” Hagan said.
Some buses have to leave before 6:30 a.m. and pick up kids earlier than 7 a.m.
The district needs to hire about four more part-time drivers.
Starting pay is just under $22 an hour, and $4 an hour more for those who opt out of health insurance.
He says drivers typically work between 25 and 35 hours a week and enjoy health benefits and paid commercial drivers license training.
“It’s quite a diverse group. We are extremely competitive, salary-wise,” Hagan said. “My drivers like what they do. You might see a movie, and they always depict the behavior of students on a school bus as just atrocious, but that’s the exception, definitely not the rule. We really have some good kids in our valley.”
One area where the population is growing especially quickly is around the Jordanelle Reservoir. Even without the lengthier routes, school commuters who live there already have a relatively long ride. Hagan says the district aims to add more bus service there but can’t do so until it hires more drivers.
The district’s also seeking bus aides who sit with students. Their roles are to assist students with special needs and help make sure buses don’t get too rowdy.
Pay for that role starts at over $15 an hour.