‘Think outside the box for more drivers:’ Retired bus driver encouraging changes in Chesterfield

‘Think outside the box for more drivers:’ Retired bus driver encouraging changes in Chesterfield

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - As issues with the Chesterfield Transportation Department continue, the focus is shifting to making changes to benefit students and drivers.

“They need to think outside of the box to get more drivers, and look at what they’re doing to chase these drivers off," said Drew Story.

Story drove for CCPS for 12 years as a second career before retiring on October 1.

“It’s a calling, in my case, between my children and grandchildren, I saw the need that was there," he explained.

Story said driving a school bus was a rewarding experience, but through the years, he has watched issues within the transportation department mount. It’s the reason he recently took his concerns about the routing system, policies and the importance of special needs students having their own transportation area, to the Chesterfield School Board.

“You’ve got to put the human factor in every route we do," he said to the board. “We’re everything to them, but you can’t be anything but a deliveryman if you don’t have the time to do it and you’re 15-20 minutes late everywhere you go.”

A recent transportation update from the Transportation Department cited:

Employee recruitment, retention, and absenteeism remain a challenge. Initiatives are planned to better support bus drivers. Driver wage increases and bonuses are needed to remain competitive.
Transportation Update

The Transportation Department said vacancy rates have decreased by about 3% but [driver] absences per day have increased by 21% compared to last year. The departments “must haves” moving forward, include

  1. The department must be fully staffed with drivers in order to minimize doublebacks and to effectively evaluate the impact of changing school starting times. 
  2. Bus breakdowns must be reduced. 
  3. Drivers need support and representation when working with school administrators on student discipline issues that the Assistant Area Managers will provide. 
  4. Separate SPED and specialized transportation oversight for routing and equipment coordination is required in order to improve customer service and student support. 
  5. A routing software system is not optional for a school district this size. Further changes should occur after the software is implemented. Critical day-to-day information remains in area “silos” and it is extremely difficult to effectively analyze data in the current formats. 
  6. Because the routing staff is new to automation, consulting services are required for accelerating optimization and making sure staff are adequately trained. 

“We’ve got all these problems that we didn’t have last year. We burned a lot of drivers out last year,” said Story. "The word is getting out that these kids need help and that’s what it’s all about. The kids need people there to pick them up, the parents need people there to pick them up.”

Tuesday, a job fair was held in the county for several positions, including bus drivers. Story said recruiting can make a difference, but also hopes more changes will come from upper management.

“The need is great in Chesterfield County - the need for bus drivers, not just people who can drive a bus that’s a big difference.” he said “You have some of the most caring people behind the wheel of a bus.”

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