As the bus driver shortages have left the Washington School District scrambling to find transportation for after-school activities, officials have turned to Mid-American Coaches & Tours to help.
“They contacted us on several occasions because they have a driver shortage, which most of the districts around this area do. We picked up quite a bit of business this year so far from the school district,” Loyd Bailie, general manager of the motorcoach operation in Washington, Missouri.
Mid-American covered 71 high school activities and five trips for grade schools for the district since the beginning of the year. Bailie says his office fields as many as five or six calls on a daily basis from schools needing a bus. Surveys show that more than half of U.S. school districts rate the bus driver shortage as “desperate.”
Fill the void
Traditionally, these runs have been handled by the district’s main transportation vendor, First Student. But the national company, like many companies, has struggled with a driver shortage.
Tim Porter, First Student’s Washington location manager, said the transportation provider has focused on making sure that all of its 111 before- and after-school routes in the area are covered every day. It’s an accomplishment he attributes to the hard work of his team.
“(The districts) have been very gracious, working with us, trying to adjust times and so forth,” Porter told the local news outlet, the emissourian.com. “Unfortunately, with limited manpower, you can only do what you can do. You know, the kids’ education is first. The homes-to-school routes have to get handled and take precedence over everything else.”
Mid-American has stepped in to fill the void since First Student doesn’t have the capacity to transport athletic teams, clubs, and other extracurricular organizations to their events.
“Early on, I went out and met with the administrators of the school districts that have their own coaches but were having problems finding drivers and told them that anytime that we can help them out, just give us a call,” Bailie told Bus & Motorcoach News. “If we had the coaches available, we’d be more than happy to help them out. That really worked out well,”
In the last several months, demand from districts has kept many of the company’s coaches on the road.
“We have taken the opportunity to go ahead and readjust our rates now, because we wanted to be able to give our drivers a pay increase also. That’s something that we haven’t done in the last couple of years. They’ve stuck with us, and they deserve an increase,” Bailie said.
The majority of Mid-American Coaches’ drivers have stuck with the company during the pandemic.
“Everyone that we have here now has been really loyal to us and to the company, and we appreciate that,” Bailie said. “Some companies are struggling with this driver shortage, but we’ve managed to be creative and find things for them to do during the pandemic. We brought drivers in and would find things for them to do here around the terminal. They were more than happy to paint and anything else that we might need.”