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Staffing issues affect school bus routes
school bus
Durham School Services general manager Tonia Rader shows off one of the four new school buses entered into the local transportation fleet.

Employee shortages and global supply chain delays are affecting nearly every company in America. Durham School Services is no exemption as the Warren County School System’s bus service works to safely transport approximately 3,000 Warren County students a day.

Tonia Rader, general manager for Durham, spoke at the most recent School Board meeting regarding current challenges and what Durham is doing to safely overcome those.

Warren County has 55 bus routes. Presently, there are 52 bus drivers employed with several more going through the hiring process. 

“We’ve had a lot of staffing issues,” said Rader. “We had to double a lot of routes to get kids picked up. I want to commend my people. They did whatever they had to do to get every route picked up. Yes, some were late. They, the buses, are machines, and there are breakdowns. We do call the school to let them know we are going to be late.”

Parts shortages have shown no mercy resulting in up to seven-day work weeks for the Durham maintenance crew. Expressing thanks Rader said, “My mechanics have worked seven days a week just to make sure there is a bus on Monday morning to fill a route that I need. They are willing to do whatever it takes to get those buses up and make sure they are safe because we carry a precious cargo that cannot be replaced with insurance.”

During Monday night’s update, Rader discussed Zonar, a system which allows all buses to be tracked via computer.

“All of our buses are equipped with Zonar, and all of our buses are equipped with drive cam and CCTV,” said Rader. “The CCTV is set up on the bus to record the students and the drivers’ behavior. It’s not just there to catch students doing something. It’s there to see how our employees are doing and how they communicate with the students on the bus. We have parents at times call and say so-in-so bus didn’t come by. That’s where our Zonar comes in. I can pull it up and look at that buses route. That shows me that bus stopped at that house, activated its lights, and opened its door.”

Rader concluded by saying, “We are working diligently. We are not perfect. We are always striving to be better and to do a better job.”