Nation Experiencing Severe Shortage of School Bus Drivers
The school bus driver shortage is so bad in Massachusetts that it has called up members of the National Guard to become temporary drivers.
A nationwide study released earlier this month found that half of student transportation coordinators say their school bus driver shortages are either “severe” or “desperate.”
Due to many drivers being older, the driver shortage predates the pandemic, reports the Democrat & Chronicle. Also, during the pandemic, many of the school bus drivers were hired by package delivery companies, such as UPS, FedEx and Amazon.
There are many other reasons for the shortage, reports NPR. Last year, many drivers were furloughed and others decided to retire. Additionally, local departments of motor vehicles were closed or had limited operations, so newly hired school bus drivers couldn’t be tested on their driving abilities. Some drivers left over their concerns about catching COVID-19 from the unvaccinated children they transport.
Vaccine requirements are driving some of the resignations. About 10% of Chicago’s school bus drivers quit in response to the district’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate, reports WBEZ. Some blame the recently expired enhanced unemployment benefits as exacerbating the problem.
Whatever the reason for the shortage, the problem is so bad in Massachusetts that Governor Charlie Baker has deployed the National Guard, reports CBS News. Starting Tuesday, as many as 250 guard members were assigned to drive students to and from school.
The guard members will drive special transport vans and will receive special training before becoming temporary drivers.
One New York State lawmaker urged New York Governor Kathy Hochul to also call up the National Guard to address its school bus driver shortage, reports the Democrat & Chronicle. Currently, the number of drivers is 15% to 20% below full staffing levels.
Hochul responded to the suggestion, saying guard member’s scope of duties don’t include driving school buses.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is trying to enlist the help of ride-share companies and even paying parents to drive their own kids to school, reports NPR.
While all of this happens, school bus companies are working to recruit new drivers who like to work with children, are civic minded and like the part-time work.