OLATHE, Kan. — First Student school bus company wants to show applicants to be a school bus driver what it's really like to drive such a big vehicle. During hiring events today and next week, the company will let applicants drive a 32-foot long bus on a closed course in Olathe, Kansas.
Regional Training Manager Darlene Davis said many people are fearful to apply to be a school bus driver because they're intimidated by driving the bus. The job fair event is themed "Big Bus, no Big Deal."
"They look at me sometimes and go how are you driving that, you're so little. But it doesn't matter. If you're big or small, we can teach you to drive this school bus," Davis said.
First Student said it hires applicants who are comfortable driving, love children, and think safety first. Davis said the company helps you earn the specific driver's license certification needed to drive a bus.
Starting pay as a bus driver with First Student in Olathe is $17.50 an hour, up from $16.40 an hour last year. And Davis said she expects drivers to get a raise at some point during the school year.
Drivers work 20 hours a week. Their days are split between a route in the morning and a route in the afternoon with a break in between. Drivers can pick up hours during the day and evening busing students to field trips, sporting events, and other school-related activities.
The hiring fairs take place July 12, 17, and 19 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Santa Fe Trail Middle School, 1100 N Ridgeview Rd., Olathe, KS.
This week, troopers from Kansas Highway Patrol conducted safety inspections on all 272 buses at First Student's Olathe location. The inspection is part of an annual check before the start of school. On the Kansas side of the KC metro area, troopers expect to inspect 2,800 buses between July 6 and August 5.
Districts or bus companies check all mechanical components of the buses first. Then troopers look to make sure safety features such as stop sign arms, turn signals and windshield wipers work on each bus. The buses need a first air kit and fire extinguisher as well.
"When you see a school bus, that's probably the most inspected equipment driving every day on the road," said Lt. Mitch Mellick with the Kansas Highway Patrol. "You know, if my children are on there, I know they're safe. I know the vehicle is in good working condition."
Across the metro, from Grain Valley to Liberty, districts and bus companies are hiring drivers in time for the start of the school year.