Some school districts face bus driver shortage

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- There's concern over a shortage that could cause problems for the start of the new school year.

There aren't enough bus drivers.

"We just need drivers," said Muskegon Area Intermediate School District's road transportation specialist test examiner Tom Spoelman. He says he's never seen so great a shortage of bus drivers, and it's not just with his local school districts.

"I just talked with one in Newaygo and one in Charlovix County," he said.

Spoelman says a long list of federal and state requirements make becoming a school bus driver difficult. School boards also add other conditions.

"We have districts that will allow an alcohol conviction of over 20 years to drive. Others will not let anyone drive if they have an alcohol conviction on their record," he said.

Moreover, many districts no longer help potential drivers with costs associated with meeting requirements: about $250 for a job that is often only 15 hours a week, according to Spoelman.

"You're paying for a physical, background check, fingerprinting, tests at Secretary of State," he said.

Shelly Larabee took her road test Thursday to drive for Reeths-Puffer schools. She aced it, and has her state certificate to prove it. Larabee may be at the wheel for the district Tuesday morning.

Spoelman believes at the same time some districts will be scrambling to match drivers with routes.

"The mechanics will be driving, the supervisors will be driving, the dispatchers will be driving," he said.

Police are reminding drivers to slow down, now that there are about to be so many more buses on West Michigan roads. The Muskegon County Sheriff's Department is even placing digital display boards in certain school zones. Deputies want to remind drivers that speed limits decrease near schools when classes are in session.

Also, drivers need to slow down when a school bus's yellow lights start flashing. That's followed by red lights, which tells traffic behind and approaching the bus to come to a complete stop.

Failing to follow the rules could result in a ticket.


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