UINION COUNTY, N.C. — Union County Public Schools is in need of 40 bus drivers.

Due to the shortage, the county will be consolidating some school bus stops, and some buses will run two routes in the mornings and afternoons, according to district officials.


What You Need to Know

Masks will be required on school buses in Union County, but masks will remain optional in school

Union County in need of about 40 school bus drivers

Some bus stops will be consolidated, other buses will run two routes, in effort to bridge the gap


However, UCPS Director of Transportation Scott Denton said the impact on students should be minimal.

“Consolidated stops being in place, the route could be done faster. So we’ll be doing much more of that this year. So, they’ll be some afternoon wait times for students. We try to minimize those wait times to 10 to 15, 20 minutes at the most. And that way when we’re running in the afternoon we stay on schedule for the next school. So there’ll be some impacts, but we try to minimize those the best that we can,” Denton said at the district transportation center on Tuesday.

Some students will also have a longer walk to new bus stops, according to Denton. 

“We don’t plan to do much more than the standard 30-minute drop-off window we’ve normally observed. But obviously that bus would go back out and run another route,” Denton explained. 

Denton said the need this year is actually slightly reduced from last year, thanks to the consolidated bus stops and double routes. During the height of the pandemic last year, UCPS needed about 50 drivers. However, with virtual learning the need to bring students to school was greatly reduced. 

So, Denton said the county will see how the return to normal demand on bus capacity will impact the first week of school.

To follow your student's school bus route changes, you can download the county's 'Here Comes the Bus' app.

In another effort to help alleviate the strain on current drivers, Union County is actively recruiting more drivers.

“We welcome anyone that wants to contribute to our community and serve our students. We welcome them to come out and join our team. We have a fabulous team, a great work environment, we’d love to see folks come out and support us,” Denton said. 

The career fair is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the UCPS Transportation Center located at 3310 Goldmine Road in Monroe. 

Applicants need to be at least 18 years old with an existing driver’s license, be able to pass a background check and bring two forms of ID to be considered Wednesday.

Denton and UCPS are hopeful they can bring in the additional 40 drivers needed and start the process to onboard them quickly. This year, Union County will hire new drivers without a commercial driver’s license, letting them learn and prepare for the tests while they shadow experienced drivers already on the job. 

Some of the drivers will be operating buses with a new safety feature rolling out in Union County this year.

Thirty of the district’s more than 200 buses are outfitted with a new 6-foot safety stop arm. 

“We’re placing those in high-traffic areas to make sure the buses are more visible for approaching motorists,” Denton explained.

Union County will add itself to a list of about 13 to 14 other North Carolina counties using the extended stop arm.

The arm includes two flashing stop signs, with one extending about 6 feet from behind the front driver’s side of the bus. 

“The other thing it does is it increases our safety, because it really requires our drivers to focus very heavily on the passenger stop procedure. Checking traffic, making sure it’s stopping in both directions before deploying that stop arm out,” Denton added.

Not to mention, it’s hard to miss.

“It makes much more of a difference when that stop arm is protruding out into traffic,” Denton said.

It’s the latest safety push for the county’s school buses. About 20 to 25 of the school buses have side-mounted cameras to catch motorists who do not stop or obey driving laws around school buses.

Union County students return to school on August 23. Masks will be required on the school buses, according to a UCPS spokesperson.