November 20, 2017

District 203 Bus Driver Shortage

Every morning, bus driver Bob Biesterfeld sits in the driver’s seat of school bus #14, picking up students along his route.

“I just enjoy the kids. Seeing the little kids get excited for Santa and Christmas and Halloween and different things. For the older kids probably the last day of school, you know they look forward to that. But I just really enjoy the kids,” said Biesterfeld, an eight-year bus driver for Naperville School District 203.

But even with over one hundred drivers like Bob who love their positions, District 203 has had many drivers recently leave.

“The office is scrambling this year, more than I’ve ever seen,” said Biesterfeld.

With 133 buses but not enough drivers behind their wheels, the district is opening its bus doors and looking to hire 15 to 20 new drivers this school year.

“Right now we have a lot of bus drivers that have recently retired, so we have a lot of openings to recruit some new bus drivers to join our fleet,” said Charlene Bridges, the safety coordinator and trainer for the district. “It’s a great job; you work for the district and give back to the community.”

With a lot of retirements and an improving economy, the district is part of the countrywide shortage for bus drivers.

In turn, many students are feeling the effects of the lack of drivers, with some high schoolers saying they’re getting up at 5:45 every morning to get to their 6:30 a.m. bus on time.

“Well, when you don’t have enough school bus drivers, the drivers that we do have will have to pick up extra routes,” explained Bridges. “So we will have more students on a bus as we have to split routes, and sometimes that affects timeliness also getting to schools if they have to go out of their certain subdivision too.”

Training takes about six to eight weeks. And once you start the job, it comes with many benefits and friendships too.

So if you’re looking for a job, join bus driver Bob and other drivers behind the wheel of a school bus.

Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.

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