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School bus drivers needed in Western New York

Posted at 6:27 PM, Aug 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 11:15:54-04

A shortage of school bus drivers in Western New York is causing bus contractors and schools to think outside the box.

The Niagara Wheatfield Central School District is starting to recruit a new type of driver. District officials want to hire stay-at-home parents.

"We would like to see stay-at-home moms, dads, anybody who would like to come. A retiree that would like to learn how to drive a bus," Niagara Wheatfield Central Transportation Leslie Buczkowski said.

The school district has been sending out flyers, advertising, and looking to the PTA for bus drivers and monitors. Buczkowski said some parents have shown some interest in getting behind the wheel.

Niagara Wheatfield Central transports 4,200 students on 72 buses during the school year. It's one of few school districts in Niagara County that owns and operates its own buses.

Ridge Road Express in Niagara County owns and operates around 400 buses for other school districts. Vice President and General Manager Gary Woodcock said the shortage has forced him to get behind the wheel.

"If something has to be done, it has to be done," said Woodcock.

Many bus drivers believe New York's process of getting a commercial drivers license and extensive training is to blame. School bus drivers in the State of New York need a permit for a CDL(B) with a passenger school bus endorsement and extensive training.

"It takes about six to seven or eight weeks before we can actually use you as a driver," Woodcock said.