ST. CLOUD - Several weeks into the new school year, the St. Cloud area school district is still experiencing a shortage of school bus drivers.

There are around 9,000 students that the district buses to and from school every day. Scott Dahlin is the transportation supervisor with St. Cloud area schools, he says they are still looking for a few drivers.

"The drivers are still doing their regular routes. What we end up doing to cover our routes is putting out mechanic and office staff [to drive]."

Four independent school bus operators serve the district. The district also has a small fleet of buses. Troy Voigt of Voigt's School Bus Services in St. Cloud says the entire transportation field is being hit with a shortage of drivers.

"It's hard to find drivers but it's not exclusive to bussing, it's any commercial driving across the nation. There's some pretty staggering estimates [saying] by the year 2020 how short the country is going to be for commercial drivers."

A survey by the magazine School Bus Fleet finds the driver shortage is being felt both across Minnesota and the country. Just six percent of respondents say they have enough drivers.

Dahlin says a shortage of St. Cloud State graduates applying and a spike up in the minimum wage with bus drivers pay remaining steady, may be behind the shortage.

"There's a lot of responsibility with being a bus driver and I think people consider that and if they can work someplace else with the minimum wage or above that compared to what the bus drivers are making. So we have to start making adjustments there."

Voigt says the baby boomer generation is a little more set now with an improving economy and may have less need to drive a bus part time after retirement.

Voigt's School Bus Services is offering a signing bonus of $500 as it looks to fill several more driver positions for its routes. Both Dahlin and Voigt agree that being a bus driver is a rewarding job.

"You're the first person to greet them when they start and finish their day. I really do enjoy driving, I wish I could do it all day long," Voigt says.

-This article was written with information from the Associated Press-

Dan DeBaun,WJON
Dan DeBaun,WJON

More From AM 1240 WJON