HONOLULU (KHON2) — The upcoming school year is just a few days away, but the school bus driver shortage is still pulling the brakes on 10 bus routes on Oahu and four on Kauai. The Department of Education said one of the contributing factors is lack of people with the proper qualifications available to work. KHON2.com is digging deeper and found there’s limited training options available.
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The DOE reports that among the eight bus service companies contracted by the state, 226 drivers are still needed to fully staff the routes.
“For our district alone, we lost five bus drivers, thus the routes being cut; and I mean, they can’t fill these positions as fast as we need to,” said Rep. Darius Kila, (D) Honokai Hale, Nanakuli, Maili.
To become a school bus driver, a specialized Type-B CDL is needed. Digging deeper, KHON2.com found that there’s a limited number of training options for interested applicants.
Hilo Truck Driving School and Maui Community College has school bus driver training available. However, on Oahu, Leeward Community College said it hasn’t offered the training for over a decade due to bus companies providing it internally.
Ground Transport, Inc. said interested individuals can still apply without the specialized CDL; and it does offer the training. But they’ll have to start off as special education van drivers until they complete the course.
With such a large school bus driver shortage, some companies are looking to open up special CDL training for those that are interested. Professional Driving Academy already offers CDL training but is launching its specialized school bus CDL course soon.
“We’ll train you on how to do all the different maneuvers that they test you for at the DMV in Pearl City,” said Richard Hoapili of the Professional Driving Academy.
Ground Transport, Inc. said having applicants that already have their special CDL will streamline the process. LCC understands the demand and is looking at starting training sessions again.
However, attracting applicants to the industry is another challenge due to the split schedule and pay. Roberts Hawaii School Bus is hiring and offering incentives like eight hours of pay for four hours of work.
For more information on impacted school bus routes, click here.
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“This is not enough; and I think that if that’s the sentiment, we need to come back this session and find ways to adequately pay these drivers but also make it more attractive to serve,” said Rep. Kila.