WFTX — One thing has become clear in Lee County, there is a need for drivers with a CDL.
The Lee County School District needs 38 of them.
"We start every day with less than we need to meet every route," said Lee County Schools Spokesman Rob Spicker.
Lee county's transit system, called LeeTran needs 32 drivers in order to keep up, as more people get back on buses.
"What we're doing is we're preparing for our increase in ridership," said Lee Transit Director Robert Codie.
Waste Pro, the company in charge of picking up trash in Cape Coral, says they need 18 drivers to help meet demand.
With all this need, you're probably wondering, where are the drivers?
"We are at capacity at the moment, future scheduling is up and we're doing really well," said Suncoast Trucking Academy Instructor Glenn Osterberg.
The Suncoast Trucking Academy is located in Punta Gorda and Osterberg says those CDL drivers are coming through their school, with more signing up to get certified every day.
So, what gives?
"I see the biggest problem with the industry and it's a longstanding problem has been the pay scale," said Osterberg, "A lot of our students end up going to work for what's called an over-the-road company meaning they're away from home for two to three weeks because the pay is much more lucrative than the local jobs."
In fact, Osterberg says after just a few years those drivers can make an average of $50,000-75,000 a year.
The Lee County School District, as of now, is offering their drivers about $16 an hour, which depending on several factors, shakes out to somewhere between $30,000-$40,000.
"It has to fit within that budget and that's why it's a tough situation," said Spicker.
It's a salary they say is on par with what's being offered locally, but they also recognize that more needs to be done to be able to compete in the broader market.
"There are ongoing conversations about how much we can pay bus drivers to get them and keep them, what other benefits might be attractive to them," he said.
Waste Pro is doing something similar. They're offering signing bonuses to drivers and bumped up their starting pay by 5 percent.
And Codie says they're also looking into ways to sweeten the deal for potential drivers.
"And we're looking at some things behind the scenes that we haven't brought to the public as of yet," he said.