Help wanted… City schools in dire need of bus drivers

Published 6:00 am Friday, August 23, 2019

The Elizabethton City School system finds itself in a small bind as the beginning of the school year is underway and the problem is not from the schools or the students, but from not having enough qualified bus drivers to take care of the needs of the school system in regards to transportation of its students to schools and field trips throughout the year.
And while the position is not one that is a career job, for someone who would like to make extra money working basically from 6:30 am to 8 am in the mornings and from 2 pm to 4 pm in the afternoon, the job is a perfect fit.
Even the Elizabethton City School Board is revamping some benefits for those that drive their buses including the approval on Tuesday evening to give the drivers three personal days and bereavement leave to follow the same guidelines as the system’s support staff receives.
This was in response to the reason some drivers have left for other systems so the school system can be competitive.
Elizabethton City Schools Director of Transportation John Hutchins explained what he thinks has created the issues that systems are having in getting drivers.
“We are down one driver right now and I think that a lot of this problem stems from the crash that happened down in Chattanooga several years ago,” Hutchins said. “Because of that, there were some knee-jerk reactions by the legislature which was about safety and I understand that.
“Some of the things they did was they raised the age to 25 for someone to be eligible to be a driver and they created another position in the Department of Education to oversee and ensure the training is being done and everything.”
Part of Hutchins responsibilities is to ensure that all the requirements that have been set forth in the drive to make transportation safer for students and those often are time-consuming.
“We as transportation directors – it’s our job to make sure that once we find someone that we do all the things that we have to do to make them qualified,” Hutchins stated.
“We have to make the written background check. If they don’t have the CDL, they have to do the written test and they have to do the driving test. That whole process is probably three, four, and even five weeks sometimes.
“Getting someone quickly just doesn’t happen. The pay around here and benefits are pretty close all the way around.”
Different systems pay their drivers in different ways than others. Hutchins took the time to explain how Elizabethton City Schools pay their hired drivers.
“We pay a daily rate,” said Hutchins. “Some pay an hourly rate which if we were to look at ours from an hourly standpoint, our drivers make about $22 per hour because depending on whether they are on the lower end or the higher end of the pay scale, they are going to be in that range of $18 to $22.
“We provide benefits for the drivers. We raised the pay for field trips that are not part of the regular pay.
“They drive three hours per day– an hour and a half in the morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon and they are getting basically getting about 30 hours but their extra driving is paid separately which is $11 per hour,” Hutchins continued.
Hutchins said that one thing that the Elizabethton City School system has been working on is ways to set them apart from other systems in an effort to draw more drivers to the system.
“We gave five paid holidays last year. We try to look and see what we can do that basically sets us apart. Probably the biggest thing that sets us apart is that we are a small system in a small town and we have good roads to drive on and don’t have to drive in the hollows and some of the other places buses have to go,” Hutchins stated.
“That’s attractive to people, but we are small. It’s really difficult to get people to apply.”
Hutchins added that if someone applies for the position, it is his desire to make sure that the time from application submission to the interview and hiring process takes minimal time to accomplish.
“If someone puts an application in, you move mountains to try to get them in and talk to them because if you don’t, someone else will.”
Hutchins wanted the public to know that anyone interested in the position can call him directly at the school board office at 547-8000 or they can go online to under the employment tab and submit an application to be a driver.

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