Youngstown busing company managers say Ohio age requirement’s too low

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Managers with one of the area’s larger school bus companies say the man charged in Monday’s fatal crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee could not have been hired by them — he’s not old enough.

Workers with Community Bus Services have to be at least 25 years old and have a valid commercial driver’s license with five years of experience behind the wheel.

The driver in a fatal crash in Tennessee Monday that killed five children is just 24.

Managers here say recently the Ohio legislature lowered the state’s age limit for school bus drivers from 21 down to 18, but local supervisors argue that is too young.

“One thing, as a bus driver, you have to have control over the bus, and you can’t control a bus of high school students if you just got out of high school yourself,” said Community Bus Services’ Routing Coordinator James Perry.

Community Bus Services also requires that applicants have a clean background.

“We check your driving record. We do the fingerprints. That’s just to get in the door. Once you’re in the door, you have to pre-employment drug screen. We have random drug testing,” Perry said.

The company, which started in the city in the 1930s, now has roughly 400 employees and provides busing in more than half a dozen cities around the state, as well as serving all 20 school districts in Trumbull County.

Each time a bus leaves the Community Bus Services lot on Youngstown’s south side, both the vehicle and its driver undergo a thorough “pre-trip inspection.”

“Have to check all parts of the bus, make sure everything’s working properly, mounted and secure, nothing is missing, cracked or broken,” said Kim Powell, of Community Bus Services.

Ohio requires bus drivers be re-certified every six years. Powell said workers at Community Bus Services routinely go through in-service training several times a week, regardless of the weather, and are trained in driving in different scenarios.

Still, supervisors admit that turnover in the business is high — as much as 40 percent — and most jobs are only part-time with little, if any, benefits. That has led to a bus driver shortage nationwide.