Buffalo Public Schools and First Student say they are making a dent in the problem, but students should expect delays getting home on time until mid-November.
While there are always complaints about yellow bus service in the city, they appear louder than usual this year. Some students have been getting home as late as 7 p.m. because drivers have to make extra runs. First Student says it is because the bus company has had serious difficulties hiring enough drivers.
In a news conference Wednesday, the district and First Student said 96 new drivers have been hired and they are going through the process of tests and reviews. First Student Area General Manager Sean McCabe said they will be in place in mid-November and they should be enough.
"We can never predict attrition. Our drivers take the summer off, for the most part. We do some work in the summer. However, this summer with the job market being a little hotter that it was, our turnover was a little more than it normally is," McCabe said. "But we ramped up for that and 96 generally would be plenty to cover the open routes for us. However, we started the year a little bit short."
"We know that there are Buffalo-specific drivers that are in the pipeline," said School District Chief of Staff Darren Brown, "By November 14, we anticipate an additional 33-34 drivers on staff at a rate of approximately six additional drivers each week, right, so that the attrition that we have seen throughout the summer and in September has slowed down."
McCabe said what First Student is seeing is a national problem. The job market is attractive enough that at least 15 First Student drivers left for other bus driving slots at Metro Bus, which also has been having hiring problems.