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School bus driver shortage persists; Fox Cities' efforts to fill gaps

FVTC school bus
Posted at 4:32 PM, Jul 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-21 12:59:19-04

APPLETON (NBC 26) — Back to school might not be on parents' minds yet, but for bus companies, it never really left.

Since the pandemic, concern for transportation departments nationwide has grown. Across the country, school districts are dealing with a shortage of bus drivers.

“It seems to be a significant shortage and it continues to grow," said Rob Behnke, the Truck Driving Director at Fox Valley Technical College.

Behnke told us that they are working closely with bus companies and the community to mitigate the impact. The college has training programs to help individuals obtain Commercial Driver's Licenses to help combat the driver shortage.

The situation has forced some schools to make changes to their busing, while others are relying on school staff to step up and fill the gaps.

“Actually, people that are working at the schools are coming out and helping drive the bus because there's such a need,” said Behnke.

Alex Eisch, the manager at Fox Cities Lamers, told us that even their office staff have had to get involved.

“Office staff does have to step up and help cover routes, especially when we have heavy, athletic days that overlap with those routes,” said Eisch.

Despite the collaborative efforts, the effects of the driver shortage are still being felt.

When asked why addressing this issue is crucial, both Behnke and Eisch emphasized the significance of ensuring students' access to extracurricular activities, education, and safe transportation.

"Our students need to get to their games and home after school," said Behnke. Eisch said, "You're working with children, right? You're helping them get their education, so it's very rewarding."

Fox Valley Technical College and Lamers are encouraging anyone interested in becoming a school bus driver to reach out for more information.