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School bus drivers offered huge bonuses ahead of school year

As the school year starts, 80% of the nation's school districts are scrambling to find bus drivers.

ANDOVER, Minn. — A nationwide bus driver shortage is putting a wrench in many school district's plans to safely deliver thousands of students to their classrooms this year.

But the problem isn't just national, local bus companies are feeling the effects too. 

Jim Kelley, who's been a bus driver at Kottkes' for 14 years, says the driver shortage was there before the coronavirus -- but the pandemic definitely didn't help.

That's why the bus service in Andover, Minnesota is offering a good chunk of cash to those who may be interested in driving this school year.

The company is starting drivers off at $19.50 an hour, and after they've been there for a month, they get a $1,000 bonus.

The bonuses build the longer the drivers stay. They can earn up to $2,500 within 120 days.

"It's a great opportunity. The job is fantastic. Unlike most part-time jobs, you don't have to give up your nights, you don't have to give up your weekends," said Kelley.

The extra cash can be as much as $3,500 if the new hires already have a school bus endorsement and a commercial driver's license.

If current workers refer someone, they'll receive the same bonus the applicant receives.

Kottkes' staff say they need about 30 more drivers for a full staff. 

Minneapolis Public Schools are also offering incentives to school bus drivers: a $3,000 signing bonus, plus a $500 referral bonus for current workers. 

The district will be sharing more information on the bonuses for bus drivers in an announcement planned for Wednesday.