PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — As students head back to school, plenty will be catching the school bus. But for many districts, a bus driver shortage still looms.

What You Need To Know

  • Pasco County Schools is launching a "Where's the Bus?" app for parents to use, allowing them to track their child's bus, see if it will be on time, and the moment their student boards their bus

  • The app will be phased in throughout the district with a limited number of buses to start the school year

  • Pasco County Schools is aiming to have its entire fleet of school buses— about 400 buses — installed before winter break

  • The school district is still hiring school bus drivers

Within Pasco County Schools, they’re rolling out a new tool to track buses and ridership. District staff say the overall goal is to get students to school on time.

The district will be rolling out a new mobile app for parents to use, “Where’s the Bus?” The app allows parents to track their child’s bus and see if it will be on time. The moment a student boards the bus, the driver will know if they belong on that bus.

Pasco County Schools will be phasing this app in a limited number of buses to start the school year. Eighty-nine buses have been installed with the hardware already. The goal is to have the entire fleet — about 400 buses — installed before winter break.

“It will monitor to the students’ ridership so we will know who’s riding our buses,” says Michael Santus, operations manager with the Transportation Department for Pasco County Schools. “If we have a bus that has 75 kids, we will actually know if 75 are riding or 25 are riding, which helps us with our routing to help make our routes more efficient.”

A spokesperson for the district says they have consolidated many bus routes. There are about 274 bus routes throughout the district. Two years ago, that number was about 420.

And even as school starts, the district is continuing to hire school bus drivers. It’s a job that requires some of the most dedicated of workers.

On one Pasco County school bus, driver Paul Martinec gets ready for an ordinary shift.

“It starts when my alarm goes off at about 4:30 in the morning,” says Martinec, talking about his driving schedule. “I get ready for my day and then I come in, punch in, and then I have the pre-trip.”

But Martinec is anything but ordinary. He’s been working as a bus driver for the district for 12 years and counting.

“It’s different every day,” he says. “You get new kids, some kids leave, and something is always going on.”

Martinec sees quite the number of students, too. About 150 students all depend on him to make it to school on time. But his job is made a little easier knowing the rest of the fleet has his back.

“It’s like one big family here. We’re all trying to help each other out. If a bus breaks down, we have people to call who will be right there to help out.”

Safety is every bus driver’s top priority. Each has a checklist of objects and items that need inspection before every ride.

From checking seats …

“The pre-trip is our best way to make sure everything is going good,” says Martinec.

To inspecting lights and tires.

“Let’s make sure what’s called the lug nuts are on and nice and tight.”

All add up to a safe ride. Something Martinec is looking forward to as he gets ready to embark on a new school year.

“I took the same run as last year,” he says. “Some of the same kids are coming back. We’ll have new kids and we’ll have some good times. We’ll get those kids to school and get them back home, safely.”

District officials say the bus driver situation is actually better than it has been the last two years. As for the “Where’s the Bus?” tool, they’re doing an initial rollout at one garage and will then gradually expand it across the district.

View information on becoming a school bus driver with Pasco County Schools.