OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. — While most schools are getting ready to end the school year, among the businesses already fastening their seatbelts for the next school year are school bus companies, who have one major problem: an ever-increasing shortage of drivers.
At a Wednesday press conference promoting the need for more drivers, a longtime driver said their favorite job ever was being a school bus driver.
"The school bus driver shortage is really at a crisis level," said Jon Hipsher, the COO of Old Saybrook based M & J Bus, Inc.
The primary message of the press conference: every school bus company in Connecticut is hiring.
"There’s probably 6,500 school buses in the state," said Donald DeVivo, President of DATTCO, Inc. "We are probably, across the state, 20 to 30% short [of drivers] right now."
All operators said they don’t ever remember it being like this, but there are obstacles.
"You’ve got the unemployment where people are getting extra money from unemployment," DeVivo noted. "You’ve got a competing workforce in that you know when you get a CDL you can drive a truck."
As one might expect, many drivers get into this business because of the impact that they have on the kids' lives.
However, they also say the pay isn’t too bad either.
"Starting wage, depending on where you are in the state, could be anywhere from $18-$25 an hour," DeVivo said.
Terry Fogle, a driver and trainer for Student Transportation of America, said the pay was really good for the hours, but it wasn’t just so much about the pay.
"It was more so just being able to work with kids and you know just and see all the different personalities," Fogle added.
"I started doing this job because I didn’t want anyone else to raise my kids," said Rebecca Ortiz of M & J Bus, Inc. "I didn’t have kids for someone else to raise them."
Now, her daughter is about to graduate high school.
All companies permit their drivers to bring children or grandkids on board, but you do need your CDL license.
"I love also training the people who are starting from nothing and working their way up to a school bus driver," said Shawn Bruzik of M & J Bus, Inc.
One word all of these drivers use to describe their job: Rewarding.
For a listing of school bus driver openings in your area, click here.
HERE ARE MORE WAYS TO GET FOX61 NEWS
Download the FOX61 News APP
iTunes: Click here to download
Google Play: Click here to download
Stream Live on ROKU: Add the channel from the ROKU store or by searching FOX61.