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Bus Driver Shortage Continues In Unit Five

Emma Shores

Unit Five Schools continue to have driver shortages for school buses this week.

And that has meant some students are still getting to school around an hour late.Superintendent Mark Daniel had sternly called out the contractor First Student last week for failing to assure an adequate number of drivers. Daniel said the problem continues.

"We're supposed to have ten percent subs, however, they're running low on those numbers and because we are very lean in regards to our number of drivers, although we are willing to add some additional drivers and add buses they're having a hard time finding those," said Daniel

When the district ran its own bus program, it was not uncommon for the driver absentee rate to be twenty percent.

There are at least 130 drivers on the regular roster. Daniel said First Student appears to be willing to increase the standby driver pool to twenty percent, and has re-offered a cash award incentive for new driver applicants.
In light of the problems, though, Daniel said Unit Five is also willing to look for bus drivers wherever possible and not leave it just to First Student.

"I've reached out to see if perhaps Town of Normal may have some drivers that could, perhaps, be used. We're also looking at how we could do some things internally and we've also reached out to contact other vendors, because I'm telling you I can't wait any longer, said Daniel.

Daniel said state rules, though require behind the wheel bus driving training time, even if a potential new driver has a commercial vehicle driver license. He said that delays the effective start time for any new hire.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.