TOMS RIVER – A change in bus driver regulations has caused many districts to face a shortage of drivers, and Toms River is one of them, superintendent David Healy said.
Healy put out a message to parents to address bus lateness. Due to a shortage in drivers, some bus runs are occasionally running late, he said, apologizing for the inconvenience.
“Toms River Regional Schools has the largest board-owned bus fleet in the state and transports nearly 13,000 students daily,” he wrote to parents. “Because of our size, our school schedules have been divided into four tiers that allow our buses to do multiple runs each morning and afternoon. A transportation study the (Board of Education) engaged in two years ago showed that our routes are as compact as they can be short of reducing courtesy busing.”
Courtesy busing is the policy in which districts provide busing to students who do not attend the district but live within the school’s geographic area.
Last year, the district raised the pay rate for drivers and advertised for the position to try to minimize the impact these new regulations would have, he said.
“On days when there is a shortage, some drivers are doing double runs,” he said. “We continue to advertise in every venue we know of. And our transportation department does its best to keep each school informed so that they can communicate to parents in a timely manner.”
Educators have been reaching out to legislators to make a change in the law to make it have less of an impact on districts, and Toms River is part of this, he said.
He added that hiring buses from private companies has not helped because private companies have the same issues that districts do. They are also finding it hard to maintain staff levels.