Small Minnesota school bus company helps amid driver shortage

School districts across the country are still struggling to find ways to get all of their students to and from school amid a shortage in bus drivers.

But now in St. Anthony, a small busing company founded by a refugee from Somalia is trying to help fix the problem.

"A school bus driver is one of the most important people that we have in our life, taking care of our kids," said Sacad Gauled, CEO of Coherent Bus Company CEO.

Created three years ago and growing quickly in St. Anthony, Coherent Bus Company is trying to fill some of the holes districts are seeing.

"Our philosophy here is not to overpromise and under-deliver," Gauled explained. He‘s managed to tie down over 50 drivers, getting kids to and from charter schools in the Twin Cities.

"Right now we’re doing about 128 routes a day with multiple different schools," Gauled said.

They’re doing it by offering signing bonuses and a starting pay of $23 to $25 an hour, while also offering to cover the cost of getting a commercial driver’s license.

"What we’re doing right now is working, and we’re just going to continue what we’re doing," operations manager Marwa Mohamed said.

The company also relies heavily on word of mouth and referrals. But, at times, it’s an uphill battle.

"When I’ve been talking to drivers and people that are in this industry, they feel like school bus companies haven’t been paying them enough," Gauled said. "Much bigger companies have been promising bigger compensation - a lot more than what we can offer."

As a sign of the times, now even Gauled gets behind the wheel occasionally, helping fill gaps despite being the company’s CEO.

In the Twin Cities, two school districts impacted significantly by the shortage are Minneapolis Public Schools and Stillwater Area Public Schools.

As of early October, both are still down many drivers. But in Minneapolis, by consolidating some of their routes, they‘ve reduced the number of cancelled routes from 35 to seven.