ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. - One local school district might have found a solution to the ongoing bus driver shortage facing schools around the country.
Isle of Wight County Schools (IWCS) has been using a routing software called Transfinder to consolidate bus routes.
IWCS has been using the software for the past couple of years, but this school year, it’s especially helped them out after the bus driver shortage at the school district hit an all-time high.
The school district was down 13 bus drivers at one point this school year. Now, they’re looking to fill nine driver vacancies and has boosted pay to $20 an hour.
“If you’re even down one driver, that’s a shortage and that affects routes and affects pickup and delivery times,” said Lynn Briggs, the community and media relations director at Isle of Wight County Schools.
Transfinder helps consolidate bus routes, making for faster runs with fewer drivers. The company partners with schools nationwide.
“Our software builds efficient, safe routes; it minimizes all resources,” said Transfinder CEO Antonio Civitella. “They have students on a map. They have all the criteria, requirements, and they plan efficient routes to minimize the number of vehicles and of course drivers.”
Civitella said the technology has been around for decades, but now it’s in high demand as schools around the country face some of the highest number of vacancies.
“We’ve seen a huge uptick,” he said. “This year alone, we’re already on track to have one of the largest years on record for us because of the demand.”
Kyle Blackwell is one of the routing technicians at Isle of Wight County Schools. By using Transfinder, he said the transportation team has been able to consolidate 15 of the school district’s 53 bus routes.
“We’re able to look at the runs and look at the routes where we can condense some runs to get students to school on time, and also get home in a timely manner as well,” Blackwell said.
Buses still run late from time to time, but that’s when the school will alert parents.
The methods in place help parent Tina Clifton and her son Tanner, 16, have peace of mind.
“That’s helpful when there’s an accident,” Clifton said. “I’m very confident in this system that’s in place. It gives me a lot of reassurance.”
As some bus drivers continue to deal with the added stress of the shortage, Blackwell has some advice for the next time you ride.
“A big thank you goes a long way,” he said.
Isle of Wight County Schools is actively hiring for bus drivers. If you’d like to apply, click here.