Student transportation solutions provider HopSkipDrive released its second annual State of School Transportation Report on April 5. This year’s report indicates that school bus driver shortages and lingering issues related to COVID-19 continue to have major operational and budgetary impacts on the transportation operations at schools and districts across the country.
The annual report is based on data from survey respondents who hold a variety of school transportation and administration roles, including directors of transportation, superintendents, principals, and other school transportation staff.
As part of the 2022 survey, school administration and district leadership respondents were also asked about the correlations between transportation, chronic absenteeism, and educational equity in their communities.
Results include the following key findings:
- Bus driver shortages remain the biggest issue impacting school transportation today. 88% of survey respondents reported their school transportation operations have been constrained by bus driver shortages. This represents a 10% increase from last year.
- Respondents confirm a strong correlation between school transportation and attendance/chronic absenteeism. 67% of respondents saw a direct link between access to transportation and attendance in their district, while 61% say their districts struggle with chronic absenteeism (defined here as absent more than 15 days in a school year).
- Survey results suggest a connection between school transportation and educational access. 50% of respondents report a direct link between access to transportation and educational equity in their district.
- Difficulty recruiting new drivers is the top-cited reason for bus driver shortages. Other contributing factors reported include low driver pay, drivers reaching retirement age, and/or opting to retire early, ongoing health concerns related to COVID-19, and bus drivers choosing to leave their education jobs to work in private industry.
- School bus driver shortages are #1 on the list of the top five pain points for school transportation staff. COVID-19 related issues, funding constraints, regulation/policy changes, and bus routing difficulties round out the top five pain points this year.
- School staffing shortages are having a major impact on all aspects of school and district operations. 94% of respondents say their district has a staffing shortage.
In the report, survey respondents also offered personal accounts of the day-to-day impacts of bus driver and other staffing shortages and various other pain points. Unconventional ways schools are addressing bus driver shortages are also highlighted, as well as positives in terms of what’s going well in school transportation operations today.