Bedford County puts pedal to the metal to solve school bus driver shortage

The district is offering classes to help people earn their CDL licenses

Like many districts in our region, Bedford County Public School s is facing a bus driver shortage.

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – Bedford County Public Schools is part of a growing trend across the county — they don’t have enough bus drivers to transport children.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had to cancel on some bus routes, particularly over the past month, and that puts it on mom and dad to get their children to and from school, which could be a real hardship on our families,” said Bedford’s Superintendent Dr. Marc Bergin.

“Typically on any day, we have 15-to-20 people out due to illness, family issues, and things like that,” said Pat Smith, the district’s transportation supervisor.

School leaders say they have nearly 170 bus drivers, for just about that many routes, but they need more people. They started the school year with about 20 vacancies, and right now they still need five more drivers.

So the district’s putting the pedal to the metal to make sure the wheels on the bus go round-n-round all through the town.

They’re offering classes to prepare people for the written portion of the bus driver exam. Once you pass, the district will train you on their buses.

“All of their training will be done by our [Virginia Department of Education]-certified trainers, and we have four in the county, so no matter where you live, we can provide you a trainer. We will work on your schedule,” said Smith.

Dr. Bergin says in his three decades as an educator, he’s done just about every job except get behind the wheel.

So he’s one of 16 participants signed up to be a substitute driver.

“I feel it’s important for me, when I’m talking with our community and I’m trying to encourage people to come and work for us and serve the community, that I have some first-hand knowledge about what that work is like,” said Bergin.

Smith says salary starts at $14 an hour, and the schedules run from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., then again from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If you’re interested, it’s too late to join this set of classes, but leaders say they might offer more lessons early next year.

About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.