he decided before the outbreak to use more social media to complement advertising and word of mouth. If the outbreak does affect his roster, he said he expects his response would be to reduce the ranks of substitute drivers. “We will advertise for substitute driv- ers. We seldom hire regular drivers straight off the street. They come from the substitute list,” he added. Droppleman said he is concerned about several older

drivers with existing health conditions. “I’m worried for them,” he acknowledged. Hatfield, meanwhile, is taking a “wait-and-see” approach

regarding the pandemic’s impact on hiring and staff retention. “It’s not clear yet. I’m not overly concerned about looking

for a lot of people, but I’m realistic about what could happen. I do think we’ll have some openings for drivers,” she commented. “When the economy is [down] and people are unemployed is when we’re fully staffed, but the state and feds are trying to come up with programs to help small businesses, so we’ll wait and see and hope for the best.” Despite a recent decision by the National Highway

Traffic Safety Administration to permanently offer its school bus driver inservice modules online, one thing Hatfield said she’s certain of is that driver training is

never going to go completely online. “Basic driver train- ing has to be one-on-one in a bus. Because part of being a good school bus driver is that you have to be here and aware of your surroundings.” She pointed out that after one-on-one training, her

district requires the trainee to ride different routes with different drivers to observe their approaches to different situations. They see where the schools are and build re- lationships with students before driving. Then, they start riding the route they’re eventually going to drive to learn the route, build relationships with the students, and set clear expectations. “That is never going to change because you can’t vir-

tually train that,” Hatfield said. “That hands-on approach is something we will never lose.” With the face of COVID-19, Mayo wonders if more

people will be drawn to the stability of a driving position. He also points to a study that indicates there are more Mainers licensed to drive school buses than currently do. “I think they keep them in their back pocket in case they need them,” he said. At the same time, he acknowledges some older drivers

may decide it’s time to retire.“It could go either way,” Mayo concluded. ●


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