NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — You’ll soon be seeing fleets of Connecticut school buses taking to the streets, but officials said that more drivers are still needed.
More than 330,000 students in Connecticut rely on buses to get to and from school. However, last year, districts were scrambling amid a shortage of drivers.
But how will this year be?
“This school year, we’re feeling better,” said Bryony Chamberlain, the vice president of school buses at New Britain-based DATTCO. “There’s been a lot of work done over the past year to get more people in.”
DATTCO operates about 1,200 buses in the state, serving more than 25 school districts.
Last September, DATTCO was faced with a shortage of drivers, leading to doubled-up bus routes and delayed arrival times in certain districts.
This year looks better, with 1,100 drivers — 50 more than last year.
Sarah Tirado, who has driven buses for 12 years, teaches new drivers for DATTCO. She said there are about 60 hours of training before a new driver hits the road. The process takes between six and eight weeks.
“We start teaching them all the parts that’s under the hood,” Tirado said. “We’ll take them over to what we call our training course, our static course. We teach them how to park the bus, back it up and us their reference points.”
DATTCO is still actively recruiting drivers, hoping to attract another 50 candidates with flexible part-time work schedules and pay that starts around $20 an hour.
“You can bring your kid to work with you – think how much daycare you can save on that, so there’s a real benefit to that and you could also be the person who drives their own kids to school, and I’d pay you,” Chamberlain said.
Tirado recommends joining the profession.
“Do it,” she said. “It’s the best decision I ever made.”
There are requirements to become a school bus driver:
- A valid driver’s license.
- Pass background checks.
- Undergo periodic drug testing
- A clean driving record
- Work toward getting a “Class B” commercial driver’s license with specific endorsements (Class P, S, and V)