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Student Transit faces bus driver shortage ahead of new school year

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) — Before the end of summer vacation, transit companies are working hard to make sure all students can get to class.

Student Transit, which serves the Eau Claire Area School District and the Altoona School District, is currently experiencing the biggest understaffing.

Student Transit general manager Marty Klukas said he plans to start the school year in peak mode. This is usually reserved for times when drivers need to be away from work. Now, this will likely be Student Transit’s baseline.

“We have several routes that don’t have drivers,” Klukas said. “Now we have some surge capacity but, boy, we don’t want to start the season in a surge capacity role.”

When operating at peak capacity, managers, including Klukas, drive routes as needed. By now, that probably means “substitutes,” as Klukas will drive every day.

“I would like a dozen drivers to take over,” he said. “That way we can fulfill the whole mission.”

He said driver shortages could cause fall sports issues as school districts need transportation, adding that both school districts may need to get creative to ensure Student Transit can meet their needs. .

“It’s been a conversation for a few years now. And to know now, “Hey, I could help if needed”, but the most important thing is really to really understand what it entails to bring our students from the beginning to the end of the day to and from school has been very beneficial,” said South Middle School principal Trevor Kohlhepp.

He is learning to drive a school bus this summer. Driving kids was not his plan, but he may have to step in and help out once school starts.

For now, however, Klukas hopes more people will follow the same training as Kohlhepp.

This training, which Klukas says typically lasts 4 to 6 weeks for new drivers, involves obtaining a commercial driver’s license, passing a background check and possibly passing a driving test. . Trainees are paired with experienced drivers as they learn. They are paid during their training.

Those interested in becoming a Student Transit driver can apply on the company’s website.

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