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Hiring incentives added on to school bus drivers to fill shortage ahead of fall

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ZACHARY – The national hiring shortage is hitting the school bus industry, and school is returning in less than a month. School transportation company First Student Zachary is upping the incentive to get behind the wheel.

“The school bus industry has always had a shortage of drivers, and COVID-19 has enhanced that issue,” said Kyle Cutrer, the location manager.

Every school year, Cutrer’s crew transfers 6,000 kids daily, which takes upwards of 80 drivers to do. His staff list is currently not hitting that number.

"People take off, they get sick, so we need drivers to not only cover our daily routes but to sub as well when we need extra people,” said Cutrer.

In order to make sure he'll be fully staffed in the coming weeks, Cutrer is offering every new driver $1,000 just to sign on. The drivers will also get paid while they train how to drive the buses. Drivers in Zachary make $17.50 and are guaranteed 27 hours a week.

"We haven't offered an incentive like this in a while and we figured it would be great to give an incentive to be a bus driver and who doesn't want extra money, right?” questioned Cutrer.

Cutrer posted about the incentives on Facebook Tuesday, and he’s already had some takers.

"We've probably had maybe about 30 calls so far because we're also offering our current drivers a referral bonus. So if they bring someone in they'll get $1,000 as well,” Cutrer said.

The peaked interest is leaving Cutrer confident there will be enough drivers heading out of the First Student Zachary parking lot soon. All it's taking is a little push, or cash, to get the wheels moving again.

Drivers are also needed in Ascension and East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools. In EBR though, they currently have seven potential bus operators in a training class this week, and 14 currently completing field training.

In Livingston Parish, the routes for this upcoming school year are filled and there are subs available, however, they are always seeking more subs.

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