The 2023 State of School Transportation Report by HopSkipDrive offers a comprehensive view of current trends in school transportation and provides clear guidelines on the solutions we should be implementing now. This year, HopSkipDrive gathered input from transportation professionals and educational staff — as well as, for the first time, parents and caregivers — to gain a more holistic perspective of the challenges and opportunities in school transportation today.
Here, we’re outlining some key takeaways from the 2023 report, focusing on the persistent bus driver shortages, the critical connection between transportation and educational equity, parental perspectives on transportation options, and the overarching importance of school transportation.
Bus Driver Shortages: A Persistent Challenge
The shortage of bus drivers remains a significant obstacle to ensuring consistent transportation for students. This problem has been exacerbated by the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and shows no signs of improvement.
Despite various initiatives around the country, such as signing bonuses and creative recruitment strategies, 92% of respondents reported that the shortage has impacted their operations. Causes include difficulty in attracting new drivers, drivers transitioning to the private sector, retirements, and inadequate wages. Consequently, 40% of respondents have been forced to reduce transportation services due to the shortage.
Equity in Education and Addressing Chronic Absenteeism
This year’s report once again highlights the link between transportation access and educational equity, with 52% of surveyed district staff recognizing this connection. Moreover, 67% of respondents identified chronic absenteeism as a concern, and 74% acknowledged the direct relationship between transportation availability and absenteeism.
Vulnerable student groups, including students experiencing homelessness (69%), low-income students (62%), and students with special needs (46%) experience higher absenteeism rates. Reliable transportation is crucial for these students to ensure consistent attendance.
Input from Parents and Caregivers
For the first time, this year’s State of School Transportation Report included insights from parents and caregivers, shedding light on their transportation challenges. Nearly 75% of parents indicated that they would enroll their children in more activities or tutoring if transportation were provided. Approximately 80% expressed a desire for more transportation options from school districts.
Parents also weighed in on the different ways school transportation challenges have impacted their child’s commute to school.
Parents identified the difficulties of managing transportation logistics and schedules as a top challenge during the school year, with 64% of respondents thinking about their child's transportation multiple times a week. Additionally, over half (54%) reported that chauffeuring their children had negatively impacted their professional opportunities.
The Significance of School Transportation
The data and insights presented in the 2023 State of School Transportation Report affirms the critical role of transportation in education. The way kids get to and from school each day directly influences children, families, schools, and communities at large in numerous ways.
In addition to highlighting current challenges in the student transportation space, the 2023 State of School Transportation Report also serves as a call to action, that it’s time for us to work together, think creatively, and implement solutions now that will expand transportation options available to school districts. By doing this, we’ll be able to guarantee all students have access to consistent and dependable transportation, supporting their learning goals for years to come.
You can read and download the full 2023 report here.