GREAT FALLS — Big Sky Bus Lines is no stranger to the national driver shortage. The bus company is contracted by the Great Falls Public Schools system. As the new school year approaches, they are short 15 drivers.
“As a district, it takes a community to raise a child. Part of that is getting the children here to school. If there are community members that can do that, we’d love to have them,” said Brian Patrick, director of business operations for Great Falls Public Schools.
Barbie Stucker, manager of Big Sky Bus Lines, said, “I think COVID maybe made some of our people a little more fearful of catching germs.”
The goal for the bus routes this school year is to rotate who gets picked up from which school so there are enough drivers to cover as many children as possible.
“We've got our shop staff driving. We've got some of our full-time staff driving. So we just must put as many people behind the wheel as we can,” said Stucker.
Despite the shortage and workloads increasing for current drivers, there is no shortage of joy while being on the job.
“It's so nice to come to your job that you get paid just to come have fun. It doesn't even actually feel like work to me," said Penny Niles, a driver of special-needs students.
Driver Karie Thomas added, “You'll think of the kids or think of certain things that happened, or did I make a change today in someone's life? It's just a very rewarding job.”
Big Sky Bus Lines previously paid its drivers $15.50 per hour, but due to contract negotiations from the public school system, they have raised wages to $19.00 per hour.
“We put extra money in there that was designated for a salary increase to hopefully encourage bus drivers to drive for Big Sky Bus Lines,” said Patrick.
If you are interested in becoming a driver, click here to visit the Big Sky Bus Lines website.
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