Help wanted: School bus drivers in Gwinnett

Gwinnett County school officials say the state’s economic recovery has created a problem: They can’t keep enough bus drivers on the payroll.

Georgia’s largest school district has 77 bus driver vacancies, more than it typically has this time of year, said Donald Moore, Gwinnett’s transportation director. Moore described its challenge as a national problem.

“As the economy gets better and better, it’s getting hard to find drivers,” Moore said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Moore said Gwinnett has enough drivers at this point to fully staff all of its routes, but would like to have more in case some drivers become ill, which frequently occurs during flu season. Gwinnett can have 1,661 drivers, Moore said. Gwinnett takes nearly 130,000 students to and from school daily, and has the nation’s third largest school bus fleet.

One apparent reason for difficulty in hiring and retaining drivers is money.

Gwinnett’s starting salary for drivers is $14.78 an hour, which Moore said is as much as $1 an hour less than school districts in Atlanta, DeKalb and Fulton. Moore said Gwinnett has increased the starting salary in recent years, but so too have other metro school districts.

Another challenge is many drivers are unable to manage driving with large groups of children. Many leave after one year.

“We get that,” Moore said. “As I tell our drivers, after one year we’ve got you. Yellow starts going through your veins.”

Moore said prospective drivers must have either a high school diploma or a General Education Development certificate, pass a physical, a drug test and a criminal background check. The school district will provide at least four to six weeks of training.

Anyone interested can either go to www.gcpsjobs.org or call 678-225-7670.

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