HopSkipDrive recently surveyed a large group of pupil transportation and education professionals — from directors of transportation to superintendents — to determine the state of school transportation today and make predictions for the 2021-22 school year.
From lingering issues such as bus driver shortages to new bus capacity regulations, respondents shared their challenges as well as what's positive in their operations.
Here are six big takeaways from the newly published report.
1. Bus driver shortages remain a major issue.
One of our respondents’ biggest pain points: the ongoing bus driver shortage. Only 16.92% called it a non-issue, while 78.46% reported the bus driver shortage constrained their operations.
"Driving students is a specialized, professional position. Drivers should be paid accordingly.” Anonymous, director of transportation
“We have buses, but no drivers. We don’t have enough drivers with commercial driver’s licenses for our bus routes.” Anonymous, director of transportation
2. COVID-19 is exacerbating existing shortage issues.
The vast majority (81%) of those who participated in the survey said that COVID-19 will exacerbate the shortage, both now and down the road. Many bus drivers are near retirement age, a particularly vulnerable population when it comes to COVID-19. And there has long been difficulty recruiting younger bus drivers, due to issues ranging from pay to the stringent requirements to become a driver to fear of COVID-19 exposure.
“Many drivers do not plan to return and new candidates aren’t applying due to fear of exposure.” Suzanne S., director of transportation
3. Smaller districts would be ready to resume normal operations more quickly than larger ones.
Smaller districts largely reported that they were either supporting normal operations or could support normal operations immediately. Districts larger than 25,000 students reported it may take three months or more.
Reasons that operations would take time to ramp up generally had to do with the bus driver shortage and adjustments for COVID-19.
“We will need three to four times the resources to get the same number of students to school.” Robert T., director of transportation
4. The majority of respondents think general education services will stay the same as pre-COVID.
Even with varied ramp-up times, 61.54% of respondents will not increase or decrease general education services next school year.
5. The five biggest pain points for school transportation staff were:
● COVID-19 related issues (72% of respondents).
● Staffing (66%).
● Funding constraints (57%).
● School bus utilization (23%).
● Planning transportation for each students (22%).
6. Respondents were eager to talk about what’s going well.
Respondents looked on the bright side of this challenging year. Statements included:
“We have created succession planning through our lead driver staff. Social distancing forced us to rely on drivers to communicate to other drivers in the field. We experienced a lot of pivots this year and a high level of communication was needed to garner trust and buy in. The lead drivers helped successfully facilitate and lot of positive change.” - Rosalyn V., executive office
“Teamwork! Our drivers are working together.” Maria B., school transportation staff
Aylin Cook is the director of content for HopSkipDrive.