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Region One faces bus driver shortage

FALLS VILLAGE — With the arrival of new students and teachers at Region One schools came some more unfamiliar faces: four new bus drivers.

The new drivers have filled a much-needed vacancy as Region One schools grapple with a bus driver shortage.

“Thirteen years ago, we had 27 buses in the region. Now we are down to 18,” said Sam Herrick, the business manager for Region One.

Herrick reported that part of the reason for the reduction has been declining enrollment over the past decade.

“Is there a shortage? Yes,” said Herrick. “We’re down to 1,300 students now but we still need three or four more drivers.

Athletic teams have felt the shortage most of all, with only one bus allocated for extracurricular activities.

“We’re putting two teams on the bus to get to their games,” said Herrick. “The golf team has been renting a vehicle to take them to matches.”

All-Star Transportation holds the bus contract for the school district. All-Star representative Michelle Christen said the company has instituted numerous incentives to recruit potential drivers.

“We have a promotion on driver referrals. The training is paid and we cover all training costs associated with the position,” said Christen.

The process can be extensive for a prospective driver, often taking more than eight weeks from application to licensure.

“Getting a CDL [commercial driver’s license] takes so many hours of training and requires rigorous testing. [State Rep.]Maria Horn [D-64] is working with selectmen to speed up the process,” said Herrick.

Herrick pointed to other districts experiencing the same problem, perhaps indicative of a national shortage of bus drivers.

“The Massachusetts National Guard had to get involved with busing to transport students last year,” said Herrick.

“We’re short on people that want to do this kind of job,” said Christen.

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