Just about a month ago, Loveland City School District (LCSD) announced a “Transportation Incentive Program” in hopes of hiring more school bus drivers to meet the need for transporting Loveland kids to school. The competition for bus drivers demands special efforts to keep the drivers you have while also finding and hiring more drivers. Superintendent Mike Broadwater is uncertain how many other districts are offering a transportation incentive program, but he is certain of the competition among schools for bus drivers.
“It’s pretty competitive out there for bus drivers right now. We’re trying to come up with a plan that’s unique so we can attract drivers.” – Mike Broadwater, LCSD Superintendent
The incentive plan launched in mid-August includes $2,000 paid training in the form of two separate $1,000 payments first paid after one-half year completed and then the final payment at the completion of the first year. The $2,000 is not a random number. Garth Carlier, Director of Human Resources for LCSD explained it correlates directly to the cost of all the aspects of training and licensing required to drive a school bus.
“We wanted to make sure to let everybody know, not only are they being paid while they are being trained, but also all of the costs required for all the different assessments they have to take, and to get the CDL license is being paid as well,” said Carlier. “That’s why we tried to break this down; to say hey look everything involved here you’re going to be able to get that cost back.”
There’s more. Incentives for existing drivers to stay include a $500 longevity bonus for staying paid at the end of the first semester and then $500 paid again at the end of the school year to those who stay. Additionally, there is an incentive for current drivers to become qualified and certified as on-board instructors. Any drivers who complete the on-board instructor education and certification will be paid $750 after the school year on, or about June 5, 2023. Have they seen a response to the incentive?
“We have had some people apply since the August launch date,” said Carlier. “It’s not like people are beating down the door. Two things come into play. One, we want to attract new drivers, but also a part of this incentive is to keep and maintain the drivers we have because it really a competitive kind of market.”
Carlier and Broadwater expressed sincere gratitude for the cooperation the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) which represents a range of school employees who are not teaching staff or administrators. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was required to offer this special incentive for school transportation employees while the contract wasn’t already opened up.
“Garth has a great relationship with the president of OAPSE,” Broadwater explained. “It’s not just bus drivers; it’s also peer professionals and other classified employees. Normally what you do for one group, you have to do for every group. Our OAPSE group; they were great about the Memorandum of Understanding affecting the bus drivers. This is a great way to show the bus drivers how important they are.”
Carlier talked about the desire to keep their existing drivers while other neighboring districts may offer higher hourly pay, or different aspects of their incentive proposal. It’s not only school bus driver jobs in surrounding districts. Competition for drivers with CDL’s includes all kinds of commercial driving opportunities. Some of those include delivery driver positions with much higher wages offered.
“We know how important this is,” Carlier said. “We know not just in Ohio and in Southwestern Ohio, but across the country there is a shortage of folks doing this kind of work. We want to be able to keep people driving a school bus instead of using their CDL to do something completely different.”
Currently Loveland City School District has slightly more than 40 bus drivers. They want to keep as many of them as possible. They would not give a set number of drivers needed, nor is there a set number of drivers they plan to hire. There is a reason no set number can be given. It is a moving target because some current drivers will be retiring. The closest either Carlier or Broadwater would come to giving an exact number was approximately 14. If high school busses were reinstituted, that is the approximate number of new drivers needed. In the meantime, they are looking to hire as many as possible to fill needs and address the current shortage of bus drivers.
“There is public school busing everywhere,” said Carlier. “A kid not having a ride to school is like the most important vital thing that has to happen. For them to be able to learn here at school, we gotta get them here.”
Loveland is getting the kids to the school classroom successfully so far. Making do with a shortage of drivers comes from using the current “three tier” schedule. Three different start times and dismissal times allow fewer drivers to complete the routes and successfully transport the students to and from school each day. Of course, that does not account for all the extra-curricular transportation needs. Busses and drivers are needed to transport teams to wherever they are competing too.
“We changed the start times to three tiers in part for bus drivers,” said Broadwater. “We can divide the routes out so we don’t require as many busses on the road at the same time. Therefore you require fewer drivers. That’s why you do it.”
The message from Garth Carlier is: “We’re hiring!” Loveland is one of the best places to work throughout Ohio. Lisa Moorehead is in her 25th year as a bus driver with Loveland and says without hesitation LCSD is the best. She has spearheaded efforts to help show potential new drivers and existing drivers how great it is. Her energy and enthusiasm for driving the kids to and from school spills over into leading charitable efforts like the “Stuff the Bus” campaign to help feed those in need in our community. Not only that, but when COVID shut down the schools during 2020, she found a way to get the drivers together with their busses to honor the graduating senior class as well as end of year for all students.
“Our classified employees have worked very hard to help out,” Broadwater said. “Lisa is part of that group. She spearheaded a lot of these ideas and listening to what they have to say. They want to help. They want to have enough drivers too. It has been a very good collaborative experience. It’s worked out well.”
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