LARGO, Fla (WFLA) — Pinellas County Schools board members voted unanimously approved pay raises for school bus drivers Monday.

The district currently has 66 unfilled bus driver positions, a shortage that is felt daily, especially when that number increases due to drivers calling out from work.

“It’s very challenging for our dispatch office, because they have to cover, and we have to get every student to school so they have to break routes up, because we don’t have enough drivers, so that’s very challenging also,” said TMark Hagewood, Director of Transportation.

The new pay raises approved are:

Bus Drivers: $16.25hr to $19.79hr
Bus Driver Relief: $17.98hr to $21.75hr
Lead Driver: $19.79hr to $21.75hr

District leaders hope the pay raises can help attract and retain drivers, so students can make it to school on time.

“I think will make us competitive with other districts and other industries. So I’m hoping that it’s really going to be helpful,” said Hagewood.

The new hourly rate makes Pinellas County bus drivers some of the highest paid in the Tampa Bay area. Sarasota County Schools pay drivers the highest at $25 an hour.

The salary increase goes into effect immediately.