Hillsborough County experiencing bus driver shortage

TAMPA BAY - "I used to say to my high school kids-- boys on one side, girls on the other," said Juanita Juarez, Hillsborough County veteran school bus driver.

The rules are simple when Juarez is driving.

"I used to talk to my kids and say, you see, why did I tell you to sit down? Cause you're going to hit your head," she explained.

Her kids for 15 years were the students on her Hillsborough County school bus.

"My theory is, I treat those kids like they were my own. I look at it that way as a mother," she said.

Juarez's job could be considered one of the toughest on the county payroll. You start out at $11.04 an hour, work a split shift and are under a lot of pressure which may be why the district is down 200 drivers. 

"I think they're scared, the liability on them. It's so different when you do train a driver to do it because you're doing it on an empty bus but once they get on the bus itself with 60 kids behind you, it's different," said Juarez.

The district is struggling to keep up with routes and is hearing about it from parents. 

"Yes, there have been some parent concerns," said John Franklin, Director Hillsborough County School District Transportation.

Franklin says some drivers are working twice as hard and recruiting is slow.

"Yes we are having to ask our current cadre of drivers to do double runs. We're asking our schools sometimes to stay a little bit later to supervise children while we send drivers out to do return runs," said Franklin.

It's not an easy job especially this year but the district is hoping to hire hundreds and soon.

"It's hard. Sometimes these drivers don't get finished until 5:30, 6 o'clock, depends on their run," said Juarez.

 

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