Bus driver shortages causing delays for students


Angelina Liu

Coppell ISD and Durham School Services have been struggling to find bus drivers for the 2021-22 school year. Coppell students have been affected by inconsistent pick-up and drop-off times. Photo by Angelina Liu

Sruthi Lingam, Staff Photographer

For the past few weeks, Coppell High School associate principal Melissa Arnolds has been coming onto the intercom to notify students that buses 121 and 109 have been moved to another bus route. 

“Good afternoon CHS, please pardon this interruption. This is your daily bus change announcement. Bus 121 will be riding with bus 109 today.”

Arnold’s message reflects a larger conflict among Coppell ISD and Durham School Services that causes this inconvenience for students.

“My bus route told me to come to my stop at 8:20 a.m., but the driver came at 8:10 a.m. which caused me to miss my bus on two separate occasions,” Coppell High School junior Maalini Chandrashekhar said. “This happens relatively often, and I have to wait around 10 minutes in the morning.” 

Chandrashekhar faces issues with her bus’s schedule in the morning, but the afternoon schedule does not have as significant delays as the morning. This is because the bus services provider, Durham School Services, is forced to combine some routes due to a shortage of drivers. Because Durham’s first priority is student safety, students may face delays.

According to CISD director of communications Amanda Simpson, CISD works contracts with Durham School Services to provide the district’s bus transportation services. While the buses belong to CISD, they are driven by Durham School Services employees.

“[Our drivers] may have to split a route’s list of stops to pick up riders based on capacity and timing for arrival to the campus,” Durham School Services operations supervisor Miguel Campos said. “Getting students to and from school safely supersedes timeliness.” 

Some students may have to ride on a different bus route after school for this reason. Campos finds that the bus driver shortage can most likely be attributed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Up until now, we have not experienced a driver shortage since Durham School Services took over as the school bus operator for Coppell ISD,”  Campos said. “We have to look at the entire labor shortage that is affecting North Texas.”

Campos highlights that hiring more bus drivers is not a simple process. He says the issue is not with the number of buses available, but rather with the number of drivers available. 

“Applicants have to go through rigorous background screening, have to complete specialized training and obtain the appropriate licenses [and] credentials in order to be able to operate a school bus,” Campos said.

Bus drivers face overwhelming schedules, especially when another driver is out sick.

“Driver schedules have always been as efficient as possible,” Campos said. “[However,] drivers anywhere [can] become overwhelmed when we ask them to pick up additional stops and change their routes as we reallocate resources, thus leading to even tighter schedules.”

The industry has been experiencing a decline in the number of drivers, as more employees are leaving than coming in. CISD and Durham School Services are pushing forward to recruit new bus drivers throughout the 2021-22 school year.

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