NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — There was a time when Niagara Falls Coach Lines had 80 drivers to bus the Niagara Falls City School District students; So many, they had people on standby. But that luxury is gone.

At this point, the company has a little over 40 drivers, about two-thirds of what they need for a full complement of drivers.

So, how are they making do with getting your kids to and from school? A temporary fix is staggered start times for students.

President of Niagara Falls Coach Lines Michael Dowd says, “We can now stagger some of the runs, and kids aren’t waiting as long as they were. The other strategy is we now find ourselves doubling up the number of students that we might otherwise have had. So some of our runs are quite full, which is frustrating to everybody. Parents, because they’re worried about the kids, our drivers because they are, frankly, under a lot of pressure because now they’ve got 60 kids instead of 30.”

Dowd says this all exacerbates the problem with driver retention. But to help, last year there was an increase in wages more than they were supposed to with the union contracts last year. This happened in hope of attracting and retaining drivers.

But how are they going to handle when people call out or there is bad weather when they have an already-short staff? Dowd says the solution is dispatchers.

“They’re there to try and figure out what other bus we can get those kids on. So, while I think we might see some more weather delays and that sort of thing during the winter, we will still handle it. And the district is good about notifying the parents where there’s going to be delays. And we’re hopeful that with some pay increases we’re going to start attracting more drivers,” Dowd said.

At this point, Niagara Falls Coach Lines has a number of drivers that are finished with training and waiting for the DMV to approve them to drive, but the goal is to have 60 drivers by the end of the year. If you would like to put in an application to become a driver, you can do so here.

People who apply and go through the licensing program are paid for their time to come in and take the course. All of the requirements, such as background checks, fingerprinting, and courses are paid for by Niagara Falls Coach Lines. But even if 10 people signed up tomorrow, Dowd says it would still be a month and a half, at least, for them to get their license and be on the road.

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Chelsea Lovell is a traffic anchor and reporter from Queens who joined the News 4 team in 2022. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.