Bus drivers needed
Area school districts deal with shortage
By Holly Neumann
As with many other businesses today, the struggle to find employees has also hit bus companies hard.
Jacob Elsner, terminal manager for Kobussen Buses Ltd., which serves the Manawa and Iola-Scandinavia school districts, spoke to the Waupaca County Post about his concerns.
“It has been a daily struggle filling routes and trips,” he said. “With there not being many applicants and all available drivers are filling in already, our office staff will still need to cover routes to make sure everything is covered.”
It’s a problem that Elsner deals with on a daily basis.
“Once covid hit, many older drivers retired,” he said. “Finding people to replace them is another reason for the shortage.”
Kobussen has had to plan ahead in case it comes up short.
“We haven’t had to yet,” Elsner said. “If that day were to ever arise, we would have no choice but to combine routes as an absolute last resort.”
Combing routes would result in earlier pick-up times for some students.
The search for new drivers is never ending, according to Elsner.
“We are always searching for bus drivers, whether it be to drive a morning route, afternoon route, both morning and afternoon routes, substitute driver, fill in when you can or sporting event drivers.”
Becoming a school bus driver
The process to becoming a driver, however, is a lengthy one, which adds to the problem.
“If someone just has their driver’s license, they cannot start right away,” Elsner said. “They need to obtain a commercial driver’s license. This is where we offer paid training to assist you with the process.”
Applicants need five tests that need to be taken at a state Department of Motor Vehicles location and a state Department of Transportation physical. Applicants will then be able to obtain their commercial learner’s permit.
“The applicant will then need to train for two weeks behind the wheel,” Elsner said. “After the applicant feels comfortable, we would have them take their road test with one of our third-party testers. It is a lengthy process, but we are with the applicant each step of the way.”
Kobussen is currently offering a $1,500 sign-on bonus to attract new drivers.
“We have added a new attendance program where drivers can earn up to $600 per year,” Elsner said. “In total, new drivers can earn up to $2,100 in bonuses.”
Anyone wishing to apply can contact Elsner at the Kobussen office in Manawa at 109 N. Bridge St.. The best time is between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Elsner can be reached at 920-389-1500 or by email at [email protected] Potential drivers can also apply online at www.kobussen.com.
“Anyone with a positive attitude who enjoys working with children and driving is what makes a good bus driver,” Elsner said.
He thanked his current drivers.
“Your work does not go unnoticed,” he said. “You are the ones who keep the wheels turning safely and we cannot thank you enough for all the hard work and dedication you put in each and every day.”
Elsner also had a message to families that Kobussen serves.
“Please bear with us as we are experiencing a national school bus driver shortage,” he said. “We are working very hard to ensure students a safe ride to and from school. Our mission is to have family pride in every ride.”