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Bus drivers put education on the move
Bus driver
Terri Wilson with a student on bus 036. - photo by Photo submitted

It may be the best-kept secret in town. You work about three hours each day, you’re eligible for health and dental insurance and the state’s retirement plan and you’re off during the months of June and July plus various holidays. The pay isn’t too shabby either — up to $1,200 per month. If you’re interested, the Effingham County Board of Education invites you to “climb on board” and become a school bus driver.

Terri Wilson has been driving bus 036 in the South Effingham district for four years and says that she plans on driving a bus as long as she can.

“It’s a great job since I have children in school,” explained Wilson, “because I have the same holidays they have, including the summer break.”

The school system currently employees 117 full-time bus drivers and three full-time substitute drivers.

Most drivers run a double route each day, meaning they pick up the elementary students and then go back for the middle and high school students. These drivers earn about $60 per day while those that drive single routes earn about $48 per day.

Additional pay is earned for field trips — during and after school hours.

When Wilson first considered driving a school bus, she was a little worried about handling such a large vehicle. It didn’t take long, however, for her to become comfortable in the driver’s seat. “Learning to drive a school bus was easy,” added Wilson. “The trainers teach you everything you need to know and help you get your CDL.”

Full-time bus drivers are normally assigned to a route that is close to their home and they park the bus at their home or at a school between routes. Not only does this help the school system save money on fuel, it reduces the distance that a driver must travel without passengers before and after their route.

Wilson says she thoroughly enjoys the students that ride her bus.

“I’m the first school-related person they see every day so they always have something to tell me when they get on the bus in the morning,” she explained. “And, of course, after school they want to tell me about their day.”

While hiring full-time drivers is a yearly challenge, recruiting substitute drivers is an ongoing process. Like anyone else, bus drivers get sick, have children that get sick, encounter family emergencies, etc. Therefore, substitute bus drivers are needed on a daily basis.

Transportation coordinator Jimmy Helmly likes to have at least 10 trained and approved substitute drivers available at all times. Sub drivers running a double route earn $50 per day for approximately three hours of work but are not eligible for benefits. When there is an opening for a full-time driver, sub drivers are given the first opportunity to apply.

Helmly is currently seeking qualified individuals who are interested in working as both full-time and substitute bus drivers. Applicants must be at least 21 years old and pass a complete background check and physical.

Once approved and following a successful interview, the applicant will obtain his or her commercial driver’s license (CDL) through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The school system examiner will also administer a driving test. The total cost for the driver is about $32. New drivers must also complete six hours of driving without students and six hours of driving with students on the bus.

In order to keep their CDL current, full-time and substitute drivers are required to attend yearly state mandated meetings and obtain a physical no more than 60 days prior to the first day of school each year.

Anyone interested in applying as a substitute bus driver can do so at the Bus Shop in Springfield, 196 Power Company Rd. (across from Georgia Power) or at the Board of Education in Springfield, 405 N. Ash St.

Applicants are required to provide the following items: a current driver’s license, a social security card and the completed application form including the consent for a criminal background check and motor vehicle report.

For more information about becoming a school bus driver, contact transportation coordinator Jimmy Helmly or assistant coordinator Larissa Knight at 754-3574. You can also find an informational brochure at