A nationwide bus driver shortage is now affecting the South Plains.
They're managing for now but if more drivers aren't hired, Durham Transportation says it's the kids who could suffer. Durham is the bus service used by Lubbock, Frenship and Cooper ISD's.
Durham needs to hire 20 additional bus drivers immediately. And they're offering incentives to do it, with pay starting at $8.50 an hour. It's a part time job, but Durham is also offering benefits in an effort to get drivers in their buses.
After three years of driving a bus, Jesse Gillham knows what it takes to be a school bus driver.
"Have a lot of patience. Absolutely with a capital P," says Gillham.
Other than dealing with the occasional troublemaker, Gillham says he really has an ideal job.
"I retired back in December 2003. I just needed some extra income and this works out really good for it," says Gillham.
But Gillham and his fellow bus drivers at Durham have felt the strain due to a shortage of bus drivers.
"It makes it difficult when we don't have enough drivers to cover all the routes. Kids are safer on the bus when they have a regular driver that's on it all the time," says Jolie Haines, a Durham Safety and Training Supervisor.
With 20 bus driver positions available at Durham a number of people are having to work double duty to make ends meet. Supervisors, dispatchers even people who work in payroll are finding themselves behind the wheel, sometimes on a weekly basis.
"It puts us in a bind. This school year I've driven more than not," says Haines.
Haines says most people quit because the work is only part time, but the company hopes to halt turnover by offering a number of incentives.
"We give $8.50 an hour and the benefits include health, dental, vision and a 401K plan," says Haines.
Haines says the job is perfect for retirees, like Gillham, college students or even parents.
Still Gillham says there's one requirement every applicant must meet before they can really make the wheels on the bus go round and round.
"You definitely have to enjoy being around kids," says Gillham.
There are a number of requirements you must meet before you can be hired at Durham.
First, your criminal background and references will be checked. You must have a clean driving record and you must pass a physical along with a drug test. Once hired, Durham will give you classroom training and training to get your commercial driver's license.