Worker Shortage: Connecticut Expecting That 300 Bus Drivers Won’t Show Up to Work This Week

by Matthew Memrick

Connecticut is planning that 300 bus drivers won’t show for work Monday. That’s on top of the 800 open bus driver vacancies in the state.

A CBS station reports that hundreds are threatening not to show because of a COVID vaccine/testing mandate. 

Despite the governor’s renewed student mask mandate for this school year and weekly testing for teachers who don’t get vaccinated, school bus driver officials say 15 to 20% of drivers do not plan on complying.

Driver Resistance

Many drivers are pushing back, even though they can either get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

With drivers out, many students could be without a ride. Others could deal with longer bus rides with doubled-up routes.

“I want to let all the parents know that we are not trying to be interrupting their lives,” bus driver Carolyn Pattrell said. “That’s not our goal. We want to do our job. We love our kids.”

Pattrell told CBS she got tested because she needs her job. However, she doesn’t believe testing should be mandatory, despite students and teachers taking measures.

After 17 years of transporting kids, Pattrell admits this year has been stressful, and the bus driving team can’t afford to lose one driver. So she’s not sure what will happen at the beginning of next week.

Bus Driver Executives See A Bumpy Road

According to DATTCO, a large school bus employer in the state, his company has 850 vaccinated bus drivers in Connecticut. Over 100 will test weekly for COVID. 

But according to NBC Connecticut, 10 percent of the statewide drivers will not submit to testing.

One executive wants the governor to drop the mandate for drivers or give his company more time to figure out a plan. Jon Hipsher said his company is at a significant disadvantage with the school bus driver deficit. 

DATTCO said it would take non-compliant drivers off of routes if necessary.

A governor’s office spokesperson said school bus drivers are school district hires and the local employers must be responsible for compliance.

Connecticut Trying to Combat COVID Spread

Already, the governor has extended last year’s mask mandate for schools for this year.  

The average number of COVID cases in Connecticut over the past seven days is 484. On Friday, the state reported 470 cases.

Currently, there are 388,000 reported cases of COVID with 8,501 deaths. Among ages 0-9, there is one death. There are four reported deaths in the 10-19 age group. Children, however, can transmit the virus, and the more significant number of deaths go with older age groups.

Nationwide, Zippia reported that there are over 218,619 school bus drivers in the United States. Of that number, 53.3% of all school bus drivers are women, while only 42.7% are men.  

Nationwide, there is a growing bus driver market amid state shortages. According to Career Explorer, there are currently an estimated 179,300 bus drivers in the United States. The website forecasts that the bus driver job market will grow by 9.0 percent between 2016 and 2026.