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Unit 5 Recruits Bus Hires With Real-World Test Drive

April drives a bus
Ryan Denham
April Duncan of Normal behind the wheel of a school bus Tuesday, June 25, 2019, in Normal.

Unit 5 is trying to recruit more bus drivers for next school year by showing them that it’s not as intimidating as it looks.

Unit 5 and its transportation provider, First Student, hosted its Big Bus? No Big Deal event Tuesday in north Normal. Walk-in applicants were able to take a test-drive on a closed course to see what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a big yellow bus.

“A lot of people get scared because they think it’s a big bus. ‘I don’t know how to drive that. It makes me nervous,’” said Josh Goossen, senior location manager for First Student. “So doing this type of event gets them behind the wheel and realize, it’s not that big of a deal to drive a bus for us.”

April Duncan of Normal was one of the job applicants Tuesday. She said it wasn’t as bad as she thought. Learning how to use the mirrors was key, she said.

“It was a lot easier. It can intimidate you—the size of it. But once you get used to it, it’ll be like riding a bike,” she laughed. “I’m always looking for new experiences and to learn new things.”

First Student says its new drivers start at $16 an hour (almost twice the minimum wage), plus five paid holidays and paid CDL training.

The schedule (no weekend or evening work required) is also attractive, said Goossen.

“It’s really good for parents, or single parents, because you’re working when your children are (at school),” he said. “But we’re always looking for anybody. We’ll train you from the ground up, all the way to driving the bus.”

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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