By far, the most pressing issue for school bus contractors these days is the driver shortage. Our 1998 Contractor Survey gauges the relative importance of this chronic problem by asking respondents to rank it against other issues, such as student discipline, school district budgets, special-needs transportation and federal/state regulations. More than half of the respondents tabbed the driver shortage as the No. 1 problem facing contractors. Of course, contractors aren't the only ones experiencing problems in recruiting and retaining drivers. Publicly owned fleets are facing the same difficulties. This is a challenge to the entire school transportation industry.
Shortage impacts safety
As I remarked in my Editor's Note in the February 1998 issue, this shortage raises safety concerns. Transportation managers desperate to fill empty driver seats might be prone to hire people who they know are not suited to the position or to retain employees who might otherwise lose their jobs because of, say, an unacceptable number of traffic violations. The most sensible method of addressing this problem is to recruit vigorously year-round and to impress upon any new drivers - and the fleet's veteran drivers - that school bus driving is a profession, not just a job. This New Generation attitude is nicely captured in this issue's Industry Forum ("We need to create a new generation of drivers") by Bonnie L. MacCartney, a driver for Lowville (N.Y.) Central School District. It's a rare school bus operator who couldn't use some help in recruiting drivers. According to our contractor survey, the most effective method of attracting drivers is through the classified ads in the local newspaper. The next best alternative is finder's fees, which encourages employees to become de facto recruiters for your organization. Not only does a finder's fee give employees real incentive to recruit drivers, it also provides a benefit to drivers already on the job. And, as we all know, successful retention of drivers is nearly as critical as effective recruitment.
However, the editors at SBF believe that there may be another technique to catch the eye of prospective drivers. It's a poster that we designed especially for the school bus industry. We've recruited Uncle Sam, who's featured in the poster holding a miniature school bus and saying, "I WANT YOU TO DRIVE THIS BUS!" to help you recruit. He's obviously serious about his mission, which, in this case, is to find good men and women to drive school buses. These posters could be hung in employment centers, school offices, grocery stores or anywhere prospective drivers might frequent. The objective is to make people aware that there's a shortage of school bus drivers and to give them a phone number to call if they're interested in learning more about this profession. For information on how to order copies of this poster, visit the SBF store on this Website.