MONTICELLO, Ill. (WCIA)—“We’re trying anything and everything we can to get people in to drive,” said Mary Habel, Illinois Central School Bus Contract Manager. However, they’re having trouble getting people to do the job.
“We have drivers that didn’t come back. We had a few retired. We’ve had one move out of state, and we had a few that just didn’t come back after COVID,” said Habel. In their company’s Gateway Region which includes Kansas, Texas, Missouri, and Illinois, they are about 100 drivers short.
In order to keep their wheels rolling, sometimes other employees have to get in the driver’s seat.
“We just stick to our routes, but if somebody calls off or doesn’t show up, the main bus drivers they will pick up the extra slack,” said Nancy Newman.
The director says they have 14 routes and only seven drivers. They’re hoping more people will sign up to help students.
“It’s something that’s nationwide. Everyone is short drivers right now. We have drivers right now coming in from Chicago to help us fulfill our bus routes,” said Habel.
Those bus drivers say there’s a reason they travel hundreds of miles to make a difference. “You help out family. They were in need of help, and we reached out to participate,” said George Evans. “The staff here is outstanding, and we just didn’t want to leave them hanging,” said Newman.
The drivers say the kids are great. They hope others will answer the call to get behind the wheel.
At $20.25 an hour and a $2,000 sign on bonus, it’s also an opportunity for someone who needs to earn money. “It is a part time job, but it is an excellent job,” said Habel.