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Schools struggle to find bus drivers

Bus companies say driver shortage has been a problem for years, and the pandemic made it worse.

CARBONDALE, Pa. — If Monday was your child's first day of school and they got there on the bus, chances are there was a lot of extra work done behind the scenes to make that bus run.

School districts across our area and across the country are experiencing major shortages of drivers.

JW Transit's buses sat in park at its facility in Carbondale for much of the 2020-2021 school year. Now, the company can't find people to put them in drive. 

"When the phone rings, you think, 'oh no, am I losing another driver?'" said owner John Wansacz.

Wansacz told Newswatch 16 in order for the first day of school to go off without a hitch, many of his drivers have to do more than one trip. 

"We had a very good morning; we got the kids all to school, things went pretty good, but it's a challenge we're all facing that we just can not get drivers," he said.

Nearly every bus company and school district in Lackawanna County is in the same boat.

Wansacz said increased regulation on drivers has been a deterrent for years but, ten of his drivers quit last year alone because of COVID concerns. 

JW Transit works with only the Carbondale Area School District. Wansacz says he would like to work with more, but he simply does not have enough drivers. 

Carbondale Area has been working with the bus company. Officials there say the district is using federal CARES Act money to pay bus drivers more. 

Wansacz hopes that helps.

"We would need probably, at least another 8 to 10 drivers to fill the spots we have now. That would leave us, maybe, ok. But if we get any surprises, we're still short," he added.

Keeping the wheels turning is taking a lot of extra work.

"We've been making it work to the best of our ability right now. Don't know where things are going to go down the road, but we have covered what we can do," Wansacz said.

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