Nov 11, 2013 7:24 PM by Akeam Ashford
The Iberia Parish School Board is having a rough time recruiting new school bus drivers. The side effect is that some students are having to wait an hour or more longer to get home.
According to the Iberia Parish School Board Supervisor of Transportation Raymond Noel, the parish is having a hard time recruiting both contract and lease drivers because of low pay.
The school board splits its driving duties between contract employees, who own their buses, and lease employees, who drive buses provided to them by the parish.
The school board recently moved from an all-contract driver fleet to the half leased, half contract fleet.
In addition to their salary, the board pays contract drivers $20,000 a year for maintenance and fuel costs. But according to contract bus driver Claude Lopez, he spends half of that money on diesel fuel alone.
"It's a tight, tight, tight budget on our expenses to operate these buses in a safe manner," says Lopez.
Lopez has been with the parish for 20 years. He says not seeing a maintenance cost increase in the last seven years has people wondering if they can make any money driving a bus under contract.
"If they would give us more money on our expenses, it would give us an incentive to stay in it for the long haul," Lopez said.
The driver shortage has made the scheduling rough for existing contract drivers. Lopez says he drops off his normal group of children and then has to turn around and head to pick up another group.
"When you got 66 kids behind you, you have to focus on that mirror on these kids," says Lopez. "You have to focus on the traffic, and you have to make sure the cars are stopping for your signs. There's a lot you have to do to get the children home safe."
One perk for drivers like Lopez, who are tenured, is that they can keep their tenured status. Noel says the fact that no new drivers will get tenure could be another obstacle to recruiting new drivers.