MERRIAM, KS (KCTV) -- Bus companies in Kansas and Missouri are experiencing a bus driver shortage, as the 2021-2022 school year is set to start in districts across the metro in a few weeks. Companies are offering prospective hires a variety of incentives to convince them to apply, but many are still short staffed.
"We tell them all the time, you just don't know the difference you make in a child's life," DS Bus Lines contact manager Kevin Stagner said. "Sometimes you're the first person they see in the morning. You're the first person to tell them, ‘Hello!’ That’s huge in a child’s life."
DS Bus Lines covers two of the biggest school districts in Kansas, Olathe and Shawnee Mission, which means it has to cover more routes and hire more people. Typically, the company hires about 40 drivers a year, but is starting this school year about 60 drivers short.
Stagner says the company is offering paid training and once drivers are hired they get bonuses including one for attendance. Durham School Services is offering $3,000 sign on bonuses for drivers with CDL and half for drivers who don’t have their CDL. Still, the company is set to start the 2021-2022 school year with 25% less staff.
“We're getting down to crunch time. We're three weeks away from school starting [because] school starts a little earlier this year,” said Stagner.
On Wednesday morning, Bob Rigg returned to DS Bus Lines in Merriam, KS for his second day of training. He walked into the location the day prior inquiring about the possibility of becoming a driver at 86 years old.
Rigg was a mortgage banker for 25 years. He retired 21 years ago, but decided to return to the workforce for the “pretty good pay for a retiree” and to stay busy. Rigg’s wife died 3 years ago.
“Gives me something to do. You can't sit home and watch TV all day,” said Rigg.
Rigg will need to train for about three weeks and earn his CDL before he can drive the bus on his own for a school district.
Stagner says the industry lost a lot of drivers who were anxious and nervous about contracting COVID-19 on the job at the height of the pandemic. If companies aren’t able to hire more drivers soon, they might have to cancel some bus routes.
“This day in age, some parents work night shift, how do they get them[students] to school? Sometimes parents go to work so early in the morning, how do they [students] get to school? It's very important that we have the drivers,” urged Stagner.
More information for job seekers interested in applying to become a bus driver available here: