Fifty-one percent of survey respondents described their driver shortage as “severe” or...

Fifty-one percent of survey respondents described their driver shortage as “severe” or “desperate.” The survey garnered nearly 1,500 responses.

File photo courtesy Metro Nashville (Tenn.) Public Schools

The National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), and the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) recently conducted a joint survey of America’s shortage of school bus drivers. The results confirm what many have been saying.

“As school districts across the country return to in-person learning and COVID continues to have an impact on education in general and school transportation scheduling and logistics in particular, the shortage of school bus drivers has become conspicuous,” said NAPT Executive Director Mike Martin. “But let’s be clear — this is not a new problem. Nor it is easy to solve.”

Here are the most significant findings of the survey, which garnered nearly 1,500 responses and has a level of precision for statistics that is +/- 2.5% at 95% confidence:

  • Every region of the country is currently altering transportation service due to COVID. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of respondents in the Northeast said they have altered service, 77% in the Midwest, 66% percent in the South, and 80% in the West.
  • Ninety-one percent (91%) of respondents said they have altered service to elementary schools, 90% have altered service to middle schools, and 83% have altered service to high schools.
  • Fifty-one percent (51%) of respondents described their driver shortage as “severe” or “desperate.” Roughly three-quarters of all respondents (78%) also indicated that the school bus driver shortage is getting “much worse” or “a little worse.”
  • Roughly two-thirds of all respondents (65%) indicated that bus driver shortage is their number one problem or concern. Only 1% of respondents indicated that bus driver shortage is not a problem for them.
  • The average number of days in the hiring process is 16, with the Northeast averaging 17 days, the Midwest and the South averaging 16 days, and the West averaging 22 days.
  • In a question that allowed for multiple answers, 50% of respondents said the rate of pay is a major factor affecting their ability to recruit and retain drivers, 45% cited the “length of time to secure a CDL,” 38% the “availability of benefits,” and 38% the “hours available to work.”

“While the industry seems to struggle with driver shortages each year, this year’s shortage has a different feel to it and having the data to really understand it is invaluable,” noted Ronna Weber, the executive director of NASDPTS. “We hear anecdotal reports all the time but being able to point to real information will ensure we are responding to this situation in the best manner possible for our members.”

NAPT, NASDPTS, and NSTA conducted the survey to determine the extent of bus driver shortages, whether the trend is getting better, or worse, and which solutions are being used to remedy the problem. Analyses were conducted to determine where the survey responses were significantly different among segments by geographic region, respondents’ job title, or size of the company/school district; how organizations recruit bus drivers, to understand more about the interviewing and hiring process; and what steps are being taken by companies and school districts to retain drivers

“This survey reaffirms individual feedback that we have heard from our members that both in-district and contract school bus operators are facing serious challenges with respect to staffing of the driver pool this fall,” Curt Macysyn, executive director of the NSTA, said. “While we are vitally concerned about the short-term implications of the shortage, our organization looks forward to engaging on potential solutions to address this vexing issue.”