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Teachers Shares Their Experience With Driving Buses

October 17, 2022

Because of the drastic drop in school staff after the pandemic, an opportunity arose for teachers to support the school and earn a little more support for themselves while they are at it. This past year, health education teacher Cedric Austin and math teacher Josh Moore took the chance to become bus drivers.

“Becoming a bus driver was a great opportunity to increase my salary and alleviate the bus driver shortage at our school,” Austin said. “Bus drivers willing to cover additional routes are financially compensated. The shortages have increased class sizes and the number of students per bus.”

Moore understands the strain schools all around are going through to remain functional at the least. While it has yet to get that desperate, Moore feels the added pressure to always be present so he can be dependable as a teacher and a bus driver. 

“I feel like I can’t take a day off because it would require someone else to cover for me, which typically means someone will have to do extra work because I took off,” Moore said. “If I have to miss a day of work, then I have to find a sub for my teaching position and my bus position.”

This is Moore’s first year as a full-time bus driver. He had his bus license when he lived in Louisiana and drove the teams that he coached. He opted to help out since his schedule opened up and the additional income would help pay for his kids’ college expenses. 

“I became a bus driver because I needed the extra money and I always enjoyed driving a bus,” Moore said. “I think driving a bus is a great way for teachers to earn some extra money, especially for teachers who don’t have little kids. My youngest went off to college this fall so I had some extra time on my hands and I knew that we needed more bus drivers.”

Moore enjoys the pay without sacrificing his days off. Since bus drivers have the same schedules as teachers, he still gets weekends and school breaks off. However, a day’s work now includes waking up at 4:30 a.m. and heading home around 6 p.m. 

“I’ll be honest, I don’t get as much sleep as I’d like anymore. I usually come home exhausted,” Moore said. “Since I also drive an afternoon route, I sometimes have to stay at the school until 6 p.m. in order to get ready for the next day or to grade tests. I arrive at the school around 6 a.m. to drop my stuff off in my classroom and then start my route at 6:30 a.m. This all requires me to get up at 4:30 a.m. to ensure that I start my route on time. I pride myself on being on time every morning.” 

There is definitely more to bus delays than lazy bus drivers. The biggest delay occurs when a driver is out and an elementary driver has to pick up the route. They must finish their elementary route first and then start the high school route. This can cause the high schools to be 45 minutes to an hour late. Traffic always plays a part and there is always the chance of a bus breaking down. 

“As a bus driver, it’s my responsibility to ensure each student arrives at and from school safely each day,” Austin said. “Some of our responsibilities to ensure that include: a daily pre and post-trip bus inspection, a morning and afternoon student headcount, refueling the bus at half a tank and maintaining a clean bus.” 

Bus drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) with a passenger and school bus endorsement. They must also pass a written test and road test administered by the Alabama State Department of Transportation. 

“To drive, you have to get accustomed to the size and length of driving a 40-foot bus as opposed to an 8-foot car. Some of the differences include the size of the bus, air brakes, speed limit restriction and additional mirrors and switches,” Austin said. “A bus uses air brakes which require pressure to build up before the bus is safe to drive. The speed limit for driving a bus is 5 mph slower than the posted speed limit. Another difference is periodically checking seven mirrors instead of just two and operating bus control switches during each route.”

As official bus drivers, teachers can drive for field trips, sports and band activities. A couple of times this season, Moore drove the color guard to football games. Sometimes he drives an elementary sub route to be at school on time since they start earlier. Moore dislikes missing any instructional time with his class. He genuinely enjoys driving and even likes driving larger vehicles. 

“I have had a dream of one day owning a motorhome and traveling all over the country on my breaks,” Moore said. “However, an expensive dream and a school teacher salary don’t always make the best combination, so driving a bus may be as close as I get to driving something that big. I like being able to help out and I’ve really enjoyed driving the bus so far. I hope that I can continue doing this for many years to come.”

Austin hopes for an eventual full staff of bus drivers, in the meantime, he believes the board will need to come up with additional incentives if the shortage of drivers continues. Otherwise, the pressure will burn out the current bus drivers, prompting them to leave and snowballing the problem. 

“I would absolutely encourage other teachers to become bus drivers. It’s a great opportunity to help our local community outside of the classroom and be financially compensated,” Austin said. “Hopefully, the students will have greater respect for teachers who are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to take them to and from school safely; as well as provide them with the best education possible.”


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