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December 7, 2018

School districts report a ‘crisis’ due to shortage of bus drivers

Maine's school districts are experiencing an acute shortage of bus drivers.

Maine Public reported that for Oxford Hills and other districts, the situation is a crisis. In Androscoggin County, five districts were collectively short more than 30 drivers. Some districts are asking custodians and office assistants to fill in.

SAD 52 Transportation Director Dan Labrie told Maine Public the district launched an advertising blitz, putting up yard signs across the district, which filled most vacancies. Other districts are offering sign-on bonuses to entice new drivers. Some have launched "walking school bus" systems — students walk to school in groups, guided by volunteers.

The bus driver shortage parallels the shortage of commercial drivers in Maine and the nation.

In the trucking industry, the shortage is the No. 1 issue, Brian Parke, president and CEO of the Augusta-based Maine Motor Transport Association, told Mainebiz in October. To combat the shortage, the industry is expanding training programs, recruiting veterans, women, immigrants and people seeking a second career, and increasing wages.

According to the Maine Department of Education, to drive a school bus, which is a commercial motor vehicle, school bus drivers are required to have a commercial driver license with both school bus and passenger endorsements.

Applicants must complete a school bus driver entry-level driver training program. Free school bus driver training is offered at many local public school districts.

The state also offers the Veterans In School Transportation Program Hire-A-Vet initiative to help local school districts hire school bus drivers who are military veterans in order to fill open school bus driver and school transportation positions.

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