ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Hawkins County Transportation Supervisor Rolando Benavides starts his day early, at 5:30 a.m., to fill gaps in the district’s bus schedule.
“It’s been very difficult,” Benavides told News Channel 11. “It’s been changing very quickly.”
The district began the school year short three bus drivers in 2022, Benavides said. This year that number is up to 12.
“You try to get routes covered as best you can,” Benavides said. “Sometimes you double up from another route and they’re running it later than theirs. They’ll run their original route and then go back and pick up for a second time.”
According to the district’s bus schedule, seven of the district’s roughly 100 routes are doubled or running concurrently to a second route “until further notice.” That’s before any drivers call in sick or buses face mechanical issues.
Benavides says the shortages are the product of a perfect storm, created by an aging driver population, economic pressures, training backlogs and bad behavior by students and frustrated parents.
“We had one (parent) that would stand out at the stop sign and yell at the driver every day that their child was getting home 15 minutes later,” Benavides said. “That’s hard for that driver.”
Benavides says the district is trying everything it can to keep parents informed — and to improve circumstances for bus drivers.
This year, Benavides has taken over responsibility for disciplining students who misbehave on the bus. He’s also worked to add bus attendants when possible.
“We’ve got about between 13 and 15 monitors, probably active, depending on when they’re able to ride the bus,” Benavides said.
Despite the challenges, Benavides said he’s committed to working out the issues, one day at a time.
“I’m going to do what I can to make sure that those kids are where they need to be in front of those teachers, period,’ he said.
He just asks parents to be patient and flexible if their bus routes change.