TYLER, Texas (KETK) – It’s back to school for students around East Texas, and that means kids will be loading up on the bus soon. But, at the beginning of the summer, a bus driver shortage threatened to doom the start of the school year.

The shortage is nationwide, with 80% of schools saying they lack drivers. This problem hit Independent School Districts throughout East Texas. Tyler ISD Director of Transportation John Bagert says, “At the beginning of the summer we had a significant shortage of drivers, we were down about 30 positions.” 

The Tyler school district runs 98 busses every day for regular school routes and transports between 4,100 and 5,000 students daily. Drivers are essential for successful day-to-day operation. 

They implemented an aggressive marketing campaign that advertised their need for drivers on the side of their busses. A number to apply and quotes like, “Prime shipping on Tyler’s most precious cargo, children,” and, “We want you to drive for the kids of Tyler,” helped Tyler ISD hire 15 trainees. 

“Even with the 11 shortages that I have, I have enough staff and mechanics and everybody, we will be fully staffed as far as bus routes go for day one.”    

John Bagert, Tyler ISD Transportation

Henderson ISD also faced driver shortages, but as the school year is starting, the amount of drivers hired is up more than usual. Kyle Gatlin, Transportation Supervisor, says, “Currently this year we’re anticipating the best we ever had for the number of bus drivers we have. In years past we had a shortage, but this year is looking pretty good.” 

The school district transports about 1,300 kids every day. A lack of drivers means a lack of room on running busses and routes not being covered. This forces drivers to come up with creative ways to get students home. This includes combining and dividing drives. 

Henderson ISD is starting the year with 45 licensed CDL bus drivers – more than enough for the 34 busses in their fleet.” Gatlin says bus drivers encourage students to start the day off right which affects how they learn and leads to success. 

“Bus drivers are very critical to our students’ success. They start the day,” said Kyle Gatlin, who handles the transportation department at Henderson ISD.

The last day to request student bus transportation for the first day of school at Tyler ISD schools is Monday, August 9. To request bussing at Henderson ISD schools, contact the transportation department.