BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Bus companies in the Tri-State Area are struggling to find drivers as the school year quickly approaches, but they say every kid will have a ride.

Evie Wills, with the New Jersey School Bus Contractors Associations, says the shortage isn’t just caused by COVID fears; companies across the state are trying to recoup workers on unemployment and new prospects.

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“Remind people that this is an option that maybe they hadn’t thought of before,” Wills told CBS2’s Meg Baker.

A sign outside Barker Bus Company in Bridgewater reads, “Now hiring bus aides and drivers. Retirees welcome.”

Driving is a part-time gig. Their pitch: come be a part of the community and help get kids to school.

“Grandparents, mothers, people that have a flexible schedule can come and come to Barker Bus and fill out a form. We have a great teaching program,” said Lizzy Chesson, president of Barker Bus.

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Another issue: it usually takes up to 12 weeks to get certified with a commercial driver’s license. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission is now prioritizing these licenses.

Some parents fear not every child will have a ride, but the companies CBS2 spoke to said they will.

A possible solution is earlier pick-up times and consolidated bus stops.

With less than two weeks until the start of school, most companies are still waiting for information from districts on the number of children who need bussing. No matter that number, they still need more drivers to get it done efficiently.

The New Jersey School Bus Contractors Association is offering health care benefits and a retirement program as a further incentive for people to become drivers.

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CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team