Where's My Bus?
Over 35,800 students in the WInston-Salem / Forsyth County school district take the bus every day to get to and from school. Considering that the district serves about 55,000, over half of them use the bus on a daily basis. However, according to Radio 101 reporter Daphne Given, students are growing frustrated at what seems to be a frequent occurrence. Here are some excerpts of what she found:
“It can be late on a really important date, like test day or EOG, EOC or whatever. Or maybe you have somewhere to be in the morning at a certain time and it’ll just be late. And it’s really hard for bus riders.”
“It’s really rare for it to be on time.”
“It’s about 20 minutes late everyday.”
“It doesn’t ever come at the normal time it’s supposed to come.”
There are several reasons why buses can be late on any given day, traffic being one of the main and most unpredictable ones. However, according to the Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools Executive Director of Transportation, Darrel Taylor, the main reason is a simple one: a shortage of bus drivers.
“Right now, when the economy is really good as it is, we have fewer people that wanna drive buses; when the economy is bad and everybody is looking for a job, more people are willing to drive a bus. But right now we’re experiencing a good economy so we’re really having trouble finding people to drive our buses,” Taylor explained.
The WSFCS Department of Transportation is actively seeking to hire new drivers. With a starting pay of $13.64 an hour, it doesn’t seem like a bad deal. But according to Taylor, the pay is not enough to overcome the bureaucratic hurdle that might prevent more people from applying.
“Right now, it takes about eight weeks from the time someone goes into class for them to be hired as a bus driver, and that’s way too long. People who need a job are not gonna wait eight weeks to get a job. But we are dealing with federal and state regulations,” Taylor explained.
Among those federal regulations is the acquisition of a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) which requires drivers to pass a general knowledge test, a passenger transport test, a school bus test, and a skills test. Only one attempt at each knowledge test is allowed per day.
For the moment, it doesn’t seem like the shortage of bus drivers is going away. So for those who are waiting in the cold for a bus to come, there’s an alternative:
“They need to call our offices: 336-748-2287, Option 1 and we will get a bus by there. Our communication center will take the message and usually we’ll have a bus on that area and we’ll just ask them to circle back and pick them up,” Taylor explained
With 340 buses running all through the district, chances are that one will be able to pick you up.