Here, Mesa (Ariz.) Public Schools substitute drivers pre-trip buses in preparation for a run. Director of Transportation and Vehicle Maintenance Ron Latko says subs are “life savers” to a transportation operation because they are flexible in what they do.
All employees are essential to keeping a pupil transportation operation running smoothly, school bus drivers being one of the most critical. After all, having too few drivers means the responsibility of transporting students may fall on the shoulders of other personnel, creating a domino effect of additional work for many people.
Substitute school bus drivers are no less important than regular bus drivers — in fact, officials suggest these drivers can make or break an operation.
“They are life savers to a transportation operation,” says Ron Latko, director of transportation and vehicle maintenance at Mesa (Ariz.) Public Schools (MPS). “You can’t run a responsible transportation department without these reliable people. They know the schools, the kids, the various vehicles and are extremely flexible in what they do.”
What to look for in candidates
Many operations select their substitutes from their existing pool of drivers, and because these employees are required to essentially be a “jack of all trades,” there are specific qualities that managers look for when seeking out potential candidates.
Brian Weisinger, director of transportation at Spring Independent School District (ISD) in Houston, says that drivers in his department have to apply for the position — they’re referred to as auxiliary drivers — and applicants must undergo an interview.
“They have to have a can-do attitude,” he says. “These are also people who are very strong with student management.”
Mike Shedor, area general manager for First Student’s central region, likens substitute drivers to substitute teachers, in that when that driver steps on a bus, he or she may not know all of the students.
To that end, “they have to quickly build rapport with students and understand the route,” Shedor says. “You also want to have someone who’s patient because there may be some students who want to test the driver.”
Shedor believes it’s also important for a sub driver to have a strong understanding of and familiarity with the area that the operation serves because he or she may be called upon to drive a route without having previously driven it.
At First Student’s terminal in Edwardsville, Ill., Manager John Mollett says only the top-performing drivers on staff are considered for substitute positions. Specifically, he looks for drivers who understand the operation’s goals and mission, and drivers who are flexible, willing to work any hours, and who are knowledgeable of the school district’s routes and what is expected of them.