Bus company still needs 14 drivers for school routes

The Maui News

Bus company Ground Transport said Friday that it still needs 14 more drivers to restore full bus service to Baldwin High, Lahainaluna High and Iao Intermediate schools, where service on some routes has been suspended.

Maui High and Maui Waena Intermediate bus routes also were affected by consolidation, which has led to longer waits and different pickup and drop-off times.

“We are in daily communication with HIDOE (Hawaii Department of Education) about where we are with driver recruitment and how we can strategically restore routes,” said Louis Gomes, president of Oahu-based Ground Transport. “Our contracts with HIDOE included changes to multiple pickup and drop-off locations and times, some of which may be different from years past.”

Ground Transport, which provides school bus services on Oahu, won a seven-year contract, beginning this year, for the Maui High, Baldwin and Lahaina areas in November. Roberts Hawaii previously held the contracts for those areas and has retained the Makawao area, the largest contract on the island.

Gomes cited appeals and challenges to the contracts by Roberts in setting “our timetable back.” He also noted that there is a growing national bus driver shortage, which makes it difficult to find qualified drivers.

“Getting students to school safely is paramount, which is why we invested in a brand new bus fleet for Maui and have an extensive screening and training process for our drivers,” he said.

“We sincerely apologize to students, families and the community for the inconvenience caused by the temporary disruption in service and appreciate their patience as we work to resolve this situation,” Gomes said.

The Education Department said that 383 students at Baldwin, Lahainaluna and Iao are affected by the temporary suspension of bus service. Routes that service only the schools involved have been affected, but more distant routes that service multiple schools, including the three schools, were not affected. Special education students were not affected.

The new school year began this week.