SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Earlier this month, the Savannah Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) announced that certain students enrolled in choice programming will not be provided bussing this upcoming school year due to a shortage of drivers following the pandemic.
Local bus drivers are now speaking out about the sudden decline in drivers, and said they’ve voiced concerns to the district regarding pay frequency, retirement benefits and reserve pay for years now.
“Number one, they haven’t moved on the payroll. They haven’t moved on retirement, and they haven’t moved on the reserve pay being optional,” said Kendrick Banks, Union Steward and 6-year driving veteran for SCCPSS.
“And those are the three things drivers and monitors have been calling us about night and day, suffering. If they can handle those three things, they will automatically stop the bleeding, recruit successfully, and we’ll be able to transport the kids safely,” Banks said.
According to the drivers, these problems have occurred ever since the school board took over management of transportation back in 2016, leading to many drivers not being able to calculate what they’re making on a week-to-week basis.
“Every year they’ve had this problem, and the pandemic did not create this problem, they created the problem with the pay system,” said James Simpkins, Union Steward and 15-year driving vet. “The way this system is now, you work five hours this week, its a two week period, sometimes you won’t see it on the following check, in two weeks, three weeks, you probably won’t see it for a month later.”
The drivers said finding new candidates for open positions isn’t the issue but keeping them around long enough to understand the pay system is a completely different story.
“You get people that come in, and they train these people and by the time they end their training period, they see how that pay is coming and they don’t come back. I’ve introduced people to this job and they’ve gone through the training and they say, ‘when are we gonna get paid,’ and the way the system is, nobody knows,” Banks said.
“You can’t hide behind the pandemic and say that caused this, this is something that was happening before. And so the question is, why was it failing before the pandemic? Why did it all of a sudden happen now? Why did it creep up on the parents without any kind of warning?”
The first day of school for the SCCPSS is scheduled for August 4th.