Texas bus driver shortage dims Friday night lights

Rush Hour

(Getty)

(NewsNation) — A nationwide bus driver shortage is hitting Texas hard when it comes to high school football.

A national shortage of bus drivers has affected schools across the country, forcing cuts to routes and making it more difficult for students to get to school.

In Texas, it’s also hurting high school football.

Friday night games are a way of life in Texas, especially East Texas, the inspiration behind the TV show “Friday Night Lights.”

Football games are about more than just the team, with marching bands, cheerleaders and drill teams also taking part. But driver shortages have meant schools aren’t able to transport all the students they usually would.

It happened in the city of Nacogdoches, where the high school alerted the school district it would only be able to transport the football team and staff to a recent away game.

“It’s part of the tapestry of Friday night … having the marching band there, the drill team, the cheerleaders, and it doesn’t feel like Friday night if all those groups aren’t involved,” Nacogdoches Independent School District spokesman Les Linebarger said.

The band managed to find a way to play at the game anyway, Linebarger said, and the district continues to search for more bus drivers.

Schools in Texas are doing what they can to attract new drivers, but federal rules require entry-level bus drivers to take classes that can take several weeks to complete and cost hundreds of dollars.

In bigger cities like Chicago, the deficit is hitting other sports. The Hancock College prep girls softball team was forced to forfeit a playoff game for the city championship.

“They basically just told us we did not have a bus,” junior Alyssa Lopez said. “We tried to find our own way there, but there was no way we’d be able to get there by game time.”

In a February survey from the American Public Transportation Association, 71% of transit agencies reported they’ve had to cut or delay service due to worker shortfalls.

The problem was made worse by COVID-19 and and was felt even more intensely in rural areas. In the small Texas town of Arp, it’s gotten so bad the principal is now driving some routes.

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