Tackling school bus driver shortage

Kelly Aguinaldo
Posted on July 11, 2014

Eighty-four percent and 85%. These are the percentages of respondents to SBF’s 2013 School District Survey and SBF’s 2014 Contractor Survey, respectively, who reported having some degree of school bus driver shortage at their operation.

With the challenges that school bus drivers face, these statistics are not entirely surprising. But there is a silver lining in these figures: not everyone in the industry is experiencing this issue, so there are transportation managers and directors who have found ways to successfully recruit and retain drivers.

For anyone who is struggling in this area, I hope the following insight is fruitful.
Address maintenance, student discipline problems    
Sam Bailey, director of transportation at Biloxi (Miss.) Public Schools, told attendees of last fall’s NAPT Summit in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that he hasn’t run an advertisement for school bus drivers in 10 years.

He said during his presentation that existing bus drivers are one of the best resources for recruiting new drivers because they can provide information about what it’s like to work for the operation, and to that end, it’s important that the drivers trust the transportation director or manager.  

Bailey has been able to achieve this trust with his staff by tracking bus maintenance and student discipline problems — issues he said can “push drivers to the limit.”  

For example, he has measured patterns of school buses breaking down and for what reason, and when there is a recurring problem with a vehicle component, it will be replaced within the entire fleet.

“We also have a discipline tracker to check students by name, and we look at the application of the corrective action taken for each child,” Bailey explained. “With it, we’re able to see how the principals and assistant principals collectively process referrals. Sometimes the administrator won’t follow through and I have to find out who’s dropping the ball, but if we don’t track the referrals on our end first, we have no way of addressing how the issue is handled.”

Reach out to your peers
When driver recruitment is necessary, your peers can be a good resource for advice. Jimmy Boone, director of transportation at Tuscaloosa (Ala.) City Schools, started a discussion about the topic on our LinkedIn group page, “School Bus Fleet.”

Advice ranged from having existing staff distribute flyers at local events (such as job fairs) to posting banners on buses to placing advertisements in newspapers.  

Boone later said that his operation’s recruitment plan involved several steps. The first was to have an existing driver give out “bus drivers needed” business cards. Also, colorful banners were posted at various school sites, and when potential drivers were called in, they were shown a DVD that features existing drivers sharing what they enjoy about their job and why they drive a bus.

Boone later provided an update on his operation’s progress, writing, “We have had banners up for a month and held our first meeting with four excellent candidates.”    

To read and join the discussion on SBF’s LinkedIn group page, go to:

To access Bailey’s PowerPoint presentation on driver hiring and retention, go to:

Get more information about driver recruitment methods and check out our 2014 Contractor Survey here.

Related Topics: driver shortage

Comments ( 1 )
  • Jack

     | about 4 years ago

    Sam is absolutely correct, particularly regarding student discipline. Most drivers I know believe the best they will get from the schools and their bus lots is lip service. Most kids are fine most of the time. A small percentage go to great lengths to harass and disrupt the other passengers and the driver. It's dangerous trying to keep order and to drive with great caution simultaneously. Holding kids accountable for their behavior on the bus is largely a function of the parent's involvement and the school administration's stance. A bus driver rarely finds a responsive person in a position of authority in the school, but if her employer is committed to their employees, they can relieve much of the stress.

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