Palmer Bus Service calls for good drivers

Tim Wilhelm,, manager of Palmer Bus Service in Princeton, said there’s a reason everybody sees those big, yellow school buses parked along high-profile roads bearing banners that say “now hiring drivers.”
“It seems like our eligible workforce has shrunken a lot,” Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm said the local bus service has not displayed such a banner but is hiring drivers right now. Wilhelm said a lot of hiring is done through drivers’ referrals and word of mouth. He is hopeful that since work opportunities are slowing in North Dakota, it might make for better driver recruitment this year.
Those who drive a bus tend to be either young people raising children who need part-time hours or retired people who aren’t ready to not work at all. He said the routes typically ensure at least an hour of work in the morning and afternoon, sometimes more depending on the day and week.
Wilhelm said some busing districts are naturally more competitive on hours because they have midday runs for field trips and other needs. He said Palmer’s Princeton location does not offer midday hours, and the work is almost always part time.
It is “tough” to hire people, he said, considering that the person must pass four written tests, a road test and a background check plus are subject to random drug screening. Beginning pay for a school-bus driver starts around $13.70 per hour.
“Obviously if you have a license and experience, you’ll be worth more to us,” Wilhelm said.
He said local drivers would probably drive either a 77- or 84-passenger bus, though Princeton does have a few smaller vehicles. Potential drivers must practice and pass the road test in the same kind of vehicle they’ll be driving daily. They can’t test in a minivan and then drive a big bus for the job, Wilhelm said.
Drivers receive continuing education throughout the year, starting with an orientation at the beginning and usually including at least one session with a highway patrol officer each year. The officers spend a lot of time on the road, so they share what they see and know a lot about the road rules and changes to them.
Wilhelm said the owner of the 20-location bus service, Floyd Palmer, recently donated an older bus to the public safety teams of Princeton. He said the police and fire departments will use the bus for training and possibly develop a type of tool that all of central Minnesota could use.
Drivers undergo emergency training, but evacuation drills can only be done for scenarios where everyone exits from the back or front of the bus. For more information on  Palmer Bus Service, call Princeton’s bus garage at 763-631-5315, email to [email protected], or go online to