The real lives of bus drivers
April 5, 2016
Throughout Fairfax County, there are over 1,600 bus drivers, each responsible for safely transporting children to and from school. They work to ensure that each student reaches school in a secure and timely fashion every morning and afternoon despite various traffic situations and accidents. While often taken for granted, bus drivers are hard workers that tirelessly strive to help students. People do not often think of the individuals that are driving them to and from school each day, waking up hours earlier to warm up the buses and then travel between each individual bus stop.
Bernard Garvey, who drives LB Bus 34, said he arrives at his bus at five minutes to six every morning and parks it at four-thirty PM.
“I…pick up my first student at 6:30, and I drop off my last student at 8:25,” Garvey said. “Then I take a break in the middle of the day. Then I don’t go back to work until about 2:10, here at Lake Braddock.”
While the routine of taking the bus may be repetitive and dull for students, some bus drivers appreciate that each day is a little different.
“I’m not the office type,” FCPS bus driver Denise Falls said. “I enjoy the view, talking with students, and I enjoy students that brighten up the day.”
However, there are various factors which can make the job stressful.
“Things change day-to-day,” LB bus 19 driver Bill Dunn said. “The bus breaking down, or getting to your runs on time, [or] getting to the schools on time, depending on the traffic. Keeping some of [the kids] in line. But just making sure we get to and from [school] safely.”
Even with these challenges, bus drivers make less money than the average person in this area.
Bus drivers work five days a week for the entire school year at a salary of around $18,000. This is a sharp contrast to the average salary in Northern Virginia of over $100,000. Fairfax County is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, with a cost of living 36 percent higher than the national average. That being said, the average salary for bus drivers is only $7,000 higher than the national poverty line for a single person household and lower than the poverty line for a three-person household.
Falls remembers a time before Fairfax was a big city, before the “influx of people” allowed for growth. She said it is hard to live in Fairfax, but she enjoys it. Despite the difficulties she faces, it is still a very enjoyable job, and she has created special bonds with many students, making it difficult to say goodbye at the end of a school year.
“The last day is always bittersweet,” Falls said. “Although the last day of school seems to take forever to get here, I know I will miss the students, the smiles.”
Falls loves all aspects of her job, and she takes on the role of being a bus driver with pride.
“[My] favorite part is locking the bus door at the end of the day knowing that everyone was delivered home safely.”