School Bus Driver Shortage Draws Media Attention Nationwide

Nicole Schlosser
Posted on August 21, 2017
The widespread school bus driver shortage has increased challenges for some beyond the usual period of adjustment during back-to-school season. This year, mainstream media seems to be paying more attention. File photo courtesy Fullington
The widespread school bus driver shortage has increased challenges for some beyond the usual period of adjustment during back-to-school season. This year, mainstream media seems to be paying more attention. File photo courtesy Fullington

The widespread school bus driver shortage has made this year’s back-to-school season a rough ride for some beyond the usual period of adjustment, and this year, the media seems to have taken more notice than in previous years.

School Bus Fleet and national and local news sources have been busy reporting on the impacts of school bus driver shortage nationwide.

In Indiana, a school district in Muncie had to cancel the first two days of school because of problems it encountered in transporting students, including significant delays, no-show buses, drivers who were unfamiliar with the area, and students having to give them directions. The district had hired a new school bus company, and some of the drivers needed to be brought in from Michigan, where the company is headquartered.

In Hawaii, the state Department of Education temporarily consolidated and suspended school bus routes for four schools on Maui at the beginning of the month because of a shortage of qualified school bus drivers. (On Thursday, the state had restored one bus route, and is hiring several more CDL-licensed drivers.)

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, Edmond Public Schools had to eliminate bus service to some neighborhoods and consolidate bus stops in other neighborhoods located within 1 mile of a school due to being down by 29 drivers.  

An example of the nationwide media attention the challenge is garnering: Good Morning America interviewed SBF editor Tom McMahon on Tuesday about the shortage and some of its impacts, such as the route cuts and bus stop consolidations mentioned above.

Additionally, a handful of reporters reached out to SBF over the last couple weeks to get more information about the nationwide school bus driver shortage and the causes driving the shortage.

One of the reporters who reached out on Aug. 8, Gary Haber for the York Daily Record, asked about SBF’s recent Top 50 Contractors survey results that found most driver shortages in North America moderate to severe, and no respondents reporting zero shortage. Haber also spoke with three school bus contractors and found that, similar to SBF’s survey findings, they are increasing pay, adding or increasing bonuses, and paying for driver training and testing. They are also trying new ways of recruiting, advertising the open positions on the jobs website Indeed, and on local radio stations. (Read Haber’s story here.)

Another reporter, Danielle Waugh, for the New England Cable News, interviewed SBF, cited the recent survey on bus driver shortage in a story published on Wednesday, and spoke with Lennie Goff, the transportation director at RSU 18 District in Oakland, Maine, and former president of the Maine Association for Pupil Transportation. He told Waugh that although his district has enough full-time drivers to start the school year, he thinks that a few districts may still be in need of more drivers to have enough for the upcoming start of school. Interestingly, Waugh also reported in the story that the state departments of Labor and Education are partnering to address the shortage with a “Hire a Vet” campaign, and that for some school districts, veterans may receive free bus driver training. (Read Waugh’s story here.)

How has the start of school been looking for you in terms of school bus driver staffing? Are you stepping up recruitment efforts and/or adding any new incentives? Do you think more public awareness of the shortage will help usher in more financial and other support for school districts to help solve the problem? Tell us in the comments below.

Related Topics: CDL, driver shortage

Nicole Schlosser Managing Editor
Comments ( 16 )
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  • Jim Brown

     | about 2 months ago

    I see many reasons why there is such a shortage of drivers. 2: I was a fully licensed and certified school bus driver in the state of Washington. When I moved back to California last year, I was told I would have to go through the whole training process again. There should be a reciprocity between all states to where a school bus driver can simply get their licenses transferred to that state, without having to go through the whole training aspect again. 3: A lot of the mid-day school bus routes have been eliminated due to things, like all day Kindergarten now in effect. This has cut the amount of hours and pay on many drivers. 4: Not that many people want to work a split shift. And when you average out the number of hours of wait time and drive time; the amount per hour really drops. 5: The DOT physical requirements have slowly become more strict, with respect to items, such as a driver's neck size, and BMI. Several drivers have left after being told they would have to go to a sleep study center due to their neck size exceeding 17 inches. The reason; possible correlation between a large neck size and sleep apnea. (which is only speculation and not proven conclusively) And most districts will not pay for the sleep study, which can cost thousands.

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