The shortage of school bus drivers is finally abating, helped considerably by the increasing number of people who find themselves jobless in the withering U.S. economy. Although school transportation officials are not ready to say that the bus driver shortage is a thing of the past, statistics indicate that the hiring picture is improving.
According to a survey that appeared in the November 2001 issue of SCHOOL BUS FLEET magazine, 55.7 percent of school transportation managers said they have a “moderate,” “severe” or “desperate” shortage of drivers. That compares to 67.1 percent in a survey taken a year earlier.
In a recent Washington Post article, several examples were proffered of laid-off workers in disparate industries becoming school bus drivers.
For example, a chef who was laid off Oct. 31 by a company that catered airline food at Dulles International Airport has taken a job at Loudoun County (Va.) Schools as a bus driver.
Mark Deutschmann, who has a degree in culinary arts from Stratford University, says he’s adapting quite well to his new responsibilities. “The hours are great, the benefits are great and I like working with kids,” he told the Post. “This is a great job.”
Michael Lunsford, transportation director at Loudoun County Schools, says his pre-service driver training courses are much less lonely these days. In days past, there were some monthly classes that served only one driver applicant. These days the classes regularly attract 12 to 15 applicants and sometimes as many as 30.
In another example, the Post cited a stretch limousine driver who was making up to $1,000 a week in New York. After the Sept. 11 attacks, her business disappeared overnight. Tammie Jones now drives a school bus for Arlington County (Va.) Schools and enjoys the change. “When you drive a school bus, you know the children,” she said.