Lamers Bus Lines has been looking for school-bus drivers in Waunakee for the past few months. However, the company has had difficulty getting people into the driver seat.
School Bus Operations Assistant Tom Ludlow said it’s not for lack of effort.
“We’re looking at every promotion that we possibly can,” Ludlow said. “We’re doing everything we can to get school-bus drivers. But it keeps getting harder and harder.”
To garner interest in the job, the company held a “Drive the Bus” event last week in Waunakee, where curious minds could get behind the wheel and test ride one of their buses. Unfortunately, few people attended.
The bus line has offered a monetary incentive, in the form of a $1500 sign-on bonus.
But applications have been few and far between. Ludlow said the economy is largely to blame, since it has been faring better than in years past and many residents have found work already.
“The economy’s doing very well,” Ludlow said. “People aren’t out looking for a job right now, because we have very little unemployment. So without people looking, we don’t have a whole lot of people showing up.”
Ludlow said the situation has called for innovation, in terms of recruitment. His company has begun targeting certain segments of the population, in response.
Recently, attention has been focused on stay-at-home parents.
“We’re trying to get the word out to moms that have toddlers at home,” Ludlow said, “that you can bring your toddler with you to drive a school bus. It’s a few hours a day, and a little extra money. But it also gets you out of the house with your toddler for a little bit.”
He said some of those efforts have already proved successful.
“We now have some ladies who drive with their children,” Ludlow said, “and they enjoy driving. They all have a good time on the route.”
Another target has been retirees seeking part-time employment.
“That’s probably the largest percentage of people that we get,” Ludlow said, “people who are just recently retired but not interested in sitting at home all day. So they’ll come down here and work for a few hours a day. And it’s kind of nice to get out of the house.”
Despite recent hires, the bus line has still found itself short-staffed.
“We’re still looking,” Ludlow said. “School is coming, and we don’t want to be short. So that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re running a big promotion, to help out. And we’re trying to come up with other things.”
Ludlow said the problem is not limited to Waunakee, though.
“There’s a shortage of bus drivers throughout the country,” Ludlow said. “It’s not just us. We’re probably doing better than most, but there’s a large shortage.”
He urged people to apply before the start of the upcoming school year.