HELENA — As communities continue to recover from the effects of the COVID pandemic, school bus drivers in both Helena and Great Falls are in short supply.
Dan Redford, location safety manager for First Student in Helena, said that this is as bad of a shortage as he's ever seen and in order to carry out their routes effectively, they need more bus drivers. On Saturday, First Student took a step in recruiting new drivers with an event called "Big Bus, No Big Deal," where the company encouraged people to give driving a bus a shot.
"This event is to actually show them that it's not a big deal. The bus, once you get up and get in the seat where you sit up high, we have the trainers that are going to ride with them and show them that it's not hard to drive a school bus, it's actually pretty easy," said Redford.
Redford said that there are some key differences between the average vehicle and a school bus which averages more than two times the length of regular passenger vehicles.
"They don't turn like a regular car or a pickup truck, you turn the wheel and they're so long here on the end. We have what's called tail swing, that we have to watch to make sure when we make corners at the back of our buses that we're not going to bump another car or stationary object,"
Driving a school bus isn't a full-time job; Redford said bus drivers can expect 20 hours per week of work, but for some folks that might just fit best. “It's great for retirees, for supplementing their income. It's also very very good for... stay-at-home parents," said Redford. "If your child's over one year old, you can bring them on the bus.”
One of the added benefits of driving a school bus is the sense of community that comes with the job; Redford said, "You get to help out the community, you know? Driving school buses very rewarding. You get to know these kids, you get to become...almost call them your kids," said Redford. "Lots of drivers go, 'Hey, I don't want to change routes because these are my kids.'"
For more information about jobs in Helena, click here to visit the First Student site.
For more information about jobs in Great Falls, click here to visit the Big Sky Bus Lines site, or call 406-761-0967. Big Sky Bus Lines is also hiring school bus attendants/aides.