Kaneland experiences bus driver shortage


Photo By Preslee Sutherland

Numerous buses are parked in the Kaneland bus parking lot, while others are out on routes picking up students. Currently, Kaneland has more buses than bus drivers available.

     Kaneland Community Unit School District 302 has had a decrease in bus drivers because of an assortment of unforeseen events out of anyone’s control since the year 2020, and the number of drivers is not rising. 

     Around five years ago, there were about 50 bus drivers on staff. However, there are only 35 drivers on staff, currently. With the drop of 15 drivers, it’s become a struggle to find drivers for every route in the district. 

     Director of Transportation Karen Smith believes there is a bus driver shortage in the district. 

     “We could use another five or six drivers,” Smith said. 

     Sometimes, if there aren’t any bus drivers or substitute bus drivers available, Transportation Administrative Assistant Davis Espe has to step in and drive a bus route, even though he isn’t a set bus driver. 

     If there aren’t any bus drivers available at a specific time, then the transportation team will have to make some changes. Smith said, “This driver will have to pick up two routes, or this stop will have to move to this route if they’re both going in the same area.”

     Kaneland isn’t the only district to experience a drop in bus drivers. This is a problem in many parts of the state and country. In an article by Fox Business, writer Talia Kaplan said, “Chicago Public Schools [had] 400 vacant bus driver positions four days before the school year [was about] to start.”

     In many places, the main source of a decrease in bus drivers stems from 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic. Kaplan said, “The number of school bus drivers across the country [have dropped] as many retired or seek higher wages in jobs that require less in-person interaction.”

     This issue doesn’t look like it’s going to go away anytime soon. Espe said, “It’s only going to get worse. We have five people retiring at the end of this year, and we have nobody applying.”

     Because Kaneland has had bus drivers that have been driving for many years, most of them are nearing the time of retirement. Bus driver Bobbie Wendorf has been driving buses for over twenty years, however, after this year she plans on retiring. 

     “I’m almost 70, so it’s that time,” Wendorf said. 

     If there aren’t any new bus drivers to replace the ones retiring at the end of this year, then the bus routes are going to have to change. Espe said, “Routes are going to get longer and more crowded.”

     Kaneland is open for applications to be a bus driver. The applicant has to be 21 years of age or older. They can call or send in their application online.