Components of management
A lot goes into managing bus drivers — substitutes and non-substitutes alike. Here are several factors and how operations address them with substitutes.
• Training for new substitutes. While Mollett says that he prefers to select his substitute drivers from his existing employees, there have been times when the operation has needed to hire subs. In this case, drivers who are hired undergo an in-depth training program, and then they are assigned to a mentor. The mentor is a certified trainer, and the driver must report to the mentor for 90 days after undergoing training.
“In addition to that, I don’t expose them to a route unless they have someone else with them,” he says. “We want this new sub to be familiar with the routes, so I’ll assign them to existing routes with drivers and have them drive those routes — as many as possible.”
• Pay rate and hours. At MPS, substitute drivers are paid the same rate as non-subs, but Latko says they are contract (which gives them the same benefits as a full-time driver), and they are guaranteed 40 hours of work per week.
“Each of our three locations has a number of sub drivers, and the site supervisors set the schedules for those drivers at the specific locations,” he explains. “The number of field trips we may have on any given day will determine if we have sub drivers on duty, or how many will be on duty.”
At Houston’s Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, full-time substitutes —classified as charter drivers — have to be employed by thedistrict for one year and have acceptable attendance to be considered for the job. Here, charter drivers undergo training onwheelchairsecurement.
The charter drivers at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD work eight hours per day every school day. Powell says there are also drivers in his department classified as “emergency call-in drivers.” These employees are not guaranteed any hours, and they are called to drive on an as-needed basis.
“They maintain their regular hourly rate, and they provide us with their schedules as to when they are available to us,” he explains. “We do not require any hours on weekends or driving field trips. Emergency call-in drivers must drive at least one route per week to maintain their status.”
• Staggering shifts keeps things moving. Shedor says the First Student terminals in the area he oversees have worked to become more efficient over the past several years by staggering their start shifts where it’s possible.
“If there are a number of shifts, we might have our sub drivers start at 5:30, 6, 6:30 and 7 a.m.,” he explains. “The sub drivers are there every day, but by staggering the shifts, we don’t have everyone sitting around waiting for their assignment.”
Few challenges to address
Many supervisors say that managing their substitute drivers can be easier than managing other drivers because subs are typically so well trained and familiar with the operation.
“I find the auxiliary drivers to be easier to manage because they do have previous experience with us and they are full-time employees,” Weisinger says. “It takes less effort on my part to manage these people because they’re all self-starters.”
Most of Moorpark Unified School District’s substitute drivers are people who formerly worked for the district as bus drivers and have since retired, or they work for other departments within the district.
“It tends to work out very well for us, and they have the flexibility to turn down assignments as long as it is not done on a regular basis,” Briscoe says.