FISHERS, Ind. – Hamilton Southeastern Schools is having trouble filling out its roster of school bus drivers. Now, officials say the booming economy may be making the problem worse.
Of its 1,085 routes, HSE officials say roughly six remain open. The district hasn’t had a full roster of drivers in nearly two years. Officials say they believe the plethora of higher paying, longer hour jobs created by recent economic growth has kept potential employees away. It’s a problem now exacerbated by companies like IKEA and Topgolf.
“We’re looking at a full driver is four and a half hours a day which is appealing to a lot of people, but at the same time they’re looking for full time work that goes throughout the summer months,” Director of Transportation Zach McKinney said.
Due to the shortage, McKinney says some drivers have had to “double up” on their routes, which can cause delays in pickups of up to 20 minutes for some kids. To help ease the burden, McKinney and some other staff members including mechanics(who all have the proper training and certification), have had to get behind the wheel.
“I can’t expect my drivers to do anything I’m not willing to do myself. So, we have to get out there and drive with them, we have to get out there and double up routes ourselves, go into areas, we may not be familiar with, but we have to go out there and make sure we’re getting the kids picked up safely and home safely each and every day,” McKinney said.
Experts say McKinney may have a point about the economy contributing to their shortage. Butler University economics professor Bill Rieber says the Hamilton County economic boom has given workers “more options.” If a company wants to recruit and retain employees, Rieber says they will need to “compete.”
“Which means they offer good opportunities for their employees, good wages, working conditions, better benefits, and that’s what workers deserve in some sense,” Rieber said.
McKinney says the district is currently exploring potential incentives to help lure drivers, including additional pay, more work hours, and a possible “refer a friend program.”
For more information regarding openings at Hamilton Southeastern schools, you can visit here.