6 Key Reasons School Bus Drivers Quit

Kim Morrison
Posted on January 9, 2015
Why do school bus drivers quit? In this editorial, veteran driver Kim Morrison presents a list of common concerns among his colleagues. Photo by John Horton

Why do school bus drivers quit? In this editorial, veteran driver Kim Morrison presents a list of common concerns among his colleagues. Photo by John Horton

Editor’s note: The following op-ed expresses the author’s opinions and not necessarily those of School Bus Fleet.

When I started driving a school bus quite a few years ago, there was a cantankerous old bus driver who always used to say, "There will never be another 30-year bus driver here."

At the time, many of the drivers dismissed her statement as being just another one of her crazy rants, because many of the drivers working then had already been driving a school bus for 10 years or more. But in light of the increasing school bus driver shortages we are now seeing around the country, her statement seems almost prophetic, because it is ringing true all over. If she were alive today, I would be telling her that she was right, and she would be grinning, because she saw this coming long before the rest of us.

The questions in front of us are what is causing these severe school bus driver shortages all over, why are bus drivers leaving or retiring from these positions at a faster pace, and what is so different now that makes driving a school bus less appealing than ever before?

I’ve compiled many ideas and points of view on this issue from other school bus drivers, trainers and some route supervisors or managers from across the country — coupled with my own experience. Here are six key reasons that school bus drivers hang up their keys.

1. Low Pay

School bus drivers earn less per hour than other CDL class drivers on the road.

2. Limited Hours

We work a split shift, so there is a limited number of hours we can get. In many cases, extra work, like field trips, pays far less than the amount we get for driving our regular routes.

3. Part-Time Status

Even if we are offered benefits like full-time employees, our employers still consider us part-time employees because we work one shift in the early morning and another shift in the afternoon. The trouble is that the hours of our so-called part-time job are such that it makes it impossible to do any other part-time job, because no one will hire us for the hours we have left in our day.

4. Unaffordable Health Care

Many bus drivers who are offered health and other benefits cannot afford them — or, as we often say, they are working for benefits — because there is nothing much left of their check after the premiums for them are deducted.

5. Start-Up Costs

You are going to have to come up with some money, in most cases, for this job even before or at least at the start of your school bus driver training, because you are going to need a pre-employment background check, drug test and a physical. Every new driver winds up paying all or a part of the cost of all these things. Yes, you will have a Class B CDL after the training, but if you have been out of work and have no money, it is going to be a while before you get a check for this job.

6. Lack of Support

The main reason people are bailing out of this job faster rests squarely on the shoulders of upper management or administration of bus companies and school systems. Some common grievances here include: administrators not backing up school bus drivers when parents complain; policies that don’t support drivers; disciplinary actions that are perceived as inequitable; not showing appreciation for oldest employees; and too many hoops for drivers to jump through to get administrators to discipline children for unsafe behavior on the bus.

Recently, a middle school girl boarded my bus in tears because she was jumped or attacked by another girl while walking to the bus. She looked quite scared and cried the entire trip home, despite her friends’ efforts to console her.

When I got home, I called her home on my own time and asked her father if she was all right. Her father was angry about what happened to her, but he thanked me several times for checking on her and thanked me again when I saw him the next day.

When parents are shocked that a school bus driver does care, is this not a clear indication that our public school systems are failing on some level?

Kim Morrison has been a school bus driver in Citrus County, Florida, for nearly 15 years. He is also a published poet/writer and has won several awards from national and state poetry contests. Most of his work can be seen here.

Related Topics: driver recruitment/retention, driver shortage, morale, parent disputes

Comments ( 119 )
  • See all comments
  • Jen

     | about 25 days ago

    I have been driving the school buses for the last 6 years now. And I have seen a great number of my friends leave the industry for other better paying jobs. I however am lucky and have a husband with a decent paying career to support us. And let me continue driving my little special needs bus. However. I do get to a point every now and then where I get fed up with the lack of communication from management, administration and drivers... especially when we have bus issues that are not communicated back to the mechanics. In order to stay functioning!! Ok. I guess I’ll just leave it until it breaks down completely.. is the attitude that becomes more prevalent! Sorry to say!

More Stories
The Idaho State Department of Education’s PSA asks motorists to be engaged and "watch for school buses as they pick up and drop off kids.”
News

PSA Promotes School Bus Safety in Idaho

The Idaho State Department of Education’s public service announcement asks motorists to be engaged and "watch for school buses as they pick up and drop off kids.”

The National School Transportation Association gains an exemption from the Unified Carrier Registration Board's fleet size calculation for school vehicles owned by contractors that are operated exclusively as intrastate school transportation.
News

NSTA Gains Fee Exemption for Intrastate School Buses

The National School Transportation Association receives a fee exemption from the Unified Carrier Registration Board's fleet size calculation for school vehicles owned by contractors that are operated exclusively as intrastate school transportation.

News

Truck Collides With School Bus, Killing 2

A semi tractor-trailer reportedly enters the opposite lane of traffic and collides head-on with a school bus in Illinois, killing the driver of the truck and a school volunteer, police said.

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from SBF delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the school bus industry and don't miss a thing!