Massachusetts National Guard Activated to Drive School Buses Amid Driver Shortage

by Shelby Scott

The coronavirus pandemic has stricken America’s labor force in ways our nation hasn’t previously seen. Making headlines are typically service industry shortages, highlighting consumer complaints about long wait times and shorthanded businesses. However, Massachusetts school districts have experienced a major bus driver shortage among the ongoing pandemic. In response, the state’s governor has employed members of the national guard to transport children to and from school.

While many national guard members are unable to operate the iconic yellow buses, members will instead utilize school transport vans.

According to CBS Boston, the guard plans to employ up to 250 members to bring school transport to cities and towns. The announcement came Monday.

In observance of the transportation issue, MA Governor Charlie Baker said, “Once it became pretty clear that there were going to be some communities shorthanded – it wasn’t going to be a vehicle issue, it was going to be people with CDLs – we started talking to the Guard.”

The outlet further said that Tuesday, 90 guard members begin preparations for work in Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, and Lynn. Further, while the initiative results from good intentions, participating guard members must complete training.

Baker further said that “There are a bunch of communities who have said they’re interested in this and we’re glad to be able to help because it’s important.”

Cost for the initiative sees coverage from the government. The bus driver shortage comes as a direct result of COVID-19, leaving the federal government in charge of any pandemic-related financial issues. . Additionally, the state emphasized the National Guard’s involvement in school transportation will not hinder the unit’s ability to respond to other serious emergencies.

Bus Driver Shortages Ensue Throughout the Nation

Massachusetts then has found a temporary solution to their bus driver shortage. However, other school districts nationwide continue to search for ways to solve the problem. Many experts believe the problem relates to COVID-19. Layoffs became frequent early in the pandemic and the need for bus drivers lessened throughout.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, school districts simply couldn’t make room in their budgets for consistent bus driver hirings. Many made cuts as numerous school districts did not resume in-person teaching during the 2020-2021 school year.

Additionally, the pandemic has shown many Americans how many jobs and careers are available within the home. Therefore, remote work became a much more popular option in current society.

In response to the fact, Michigan’s Oak Park City School District Operation Manager Steve Burnette insisted, “Too many people are staying home. We need people to do these jobs.”

Further, it’s not just hiring bus drivers that seem to contribute to the issue. Professionals have stated training a good bus driver takes at least a month. While representatives and higher-ups may put out job postings, individuals can’t begin work the day after hiring.

However, to top it all off, driving buses is not a full-time job and, therefore, is not enough to provide for an entire family. And with part-time hours, bus drivers don’t receive benefits either.

Overall then, the bus driver shortage directly results from a multitude of job complications and lack of assets.