School Bus Driver Shortage Continues Nationwide as Kids Return to Class

by Megan Molseed

School districts across the country are beginning to see a worrisome trend. As states across the nation prepare for the 2020-2021 school year to begin, many districts are experiencing a school bus driver shortage.

Some experts do think part of this shortage is related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic changed the face of the school year for the last two years, school districts have found themselves in a position where hiring drivers isn’t within the budget.

In fact, last year, many schools made cutbacks to this service; since not all districts resumed fully in-person classes.

Along with districts struggling to find room for these positions in the budget, some believe the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may also be to blame.

According to Newsweek, one Michigan School district notes that much of the problem they are seeing is that people just aren’t looking for positions outside of the home anymore.

“Too many people are staying home,” said Steve Burnette Operations Manager of Michigan’s Oak Park City School District. “We need people to do these jobs.”

However, noted some experts, this is not the only piece that seems to be driving the shortage.

Training Bus Drivers Isn’t A Simple Task

Many districts are discovering that they are unable to find enough help willing to put in the time to train for the position. This makes it even more difficult for the districts to find people qualified to fill the empty bus-driver seats.

“It takes a good month to get somebody trained,” noted the executive director of the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation, Dave Meeuwsen.

Meeuwsen noted that he believes the long hiring process plays a role in the shortage.

“It’s not like I can put out an ad for a bus driver today and put you to work tomorrow,” he explained.

Meeuwsen added that the hours of the positions are possibly another reason why districts are having a hard time finding drivers for the school buses.

“It’s a rough time because it’s not a full-time job,” the director explained.

“It’s a few hours in the morning, a few hours in the afternoon, potentially a field trip here or there,” Meeuwsen noted. “Maybe a noon run, but you can’t support a family on bus driving.”

Joanna McFarland, the co-founder, and CEO of HopSkipDrive, a company that tracks school bus issues says that most of the districts they have spoken to have expressed these types of issues.

In March, McFarland reported that nearly eighty percent of the districts the company spoke to were having trouble finding enough bus drivers.

“It’s really at a breaking point,” she said.

Some Districts Offer Cash Incentives To Fill The Driver Seats

In order to try and curb the shortage, some school districts across the country are even offering cash incentives to motivate would-be applicants.

One school district in Montana is offering potential hires a $4,000 bonus. They have also started to allow people to take the buses for a quick spin. Hoping that the experience will entice someone to take on the position permanently.

Another school district has opted to find the solution in another area. A Deleware school district has offered parents a $700 incentive to handle their own transportation. Cutting out the need for a bus driver entirely.