Bus drivers are in high demand and school districts are finding student transportation to be challenging. Here are 5 things to know about the current situation:
1. Cannon Falls
“Like most districts in the state we are short bus drivers but not to the lengths of some of the other districts,” said Alison Godfrey, the transportation director for the Cannon Falls Area Schools. She added, “Currently I am short one full-time route, a part-time route and several activity driver positions. I am very thankful that I have had two subs that have jumped in to help cover the routes but this is only a temporary fix. I have no other subs available. Employees of the district that have a bus license are stepping in to drive, for example if a coach has his or her license, they are driving their team to sporting events.”
If anyone is interested in getting their bus license the district is providing paid training. Candidates must pass a Department of Transportation physical, drug screening and have a good driving record. A $1,500 bonus is offered upon completion of the school year.
2. Red Wing
During the first week of school, the Red Wing district had to update its transportation schedule. The Transportation Department explained in an email, “the district became aware that more time is needed for buses to complete their routes to drop off students with enough time to go to their lockers, use the restrooms and prepare for school.
“To resolve this issue, the transportation router will be moving all bus times 10 minutes earlier in the morning. Individual emails will be sent to families this afternoon with updated bus information.”
3. The National Shortage
The National School Transportation Association conducted a survey with two other trade associations finding that “51% of respondents described their driver shortage as ‘severe’ or ‘desperate.’”
"This back-to-school period is nothing like the previous periods we've seen," NSTA’s Executive Director Curt Macysyn told NPR. "In previous years, we've seen regionalized driver shortages, but nothing to the extent that we're seeing today."
Nearly 80% of respondents to the survey also indicated that the school bus driver shortage is getting “much worse” or “a little worse.”
In a story done by NPR, Macysyn outlined reasons for the driver shortage.
The first reason was that as the pandemic led to school closures in 2020, drivers were furloughed or opted to retire.
While COVID continued, new drivers still had to obtain a commercial driver’s license in order to be hired. This posed difficulties as many departments of motor vehicles were closed fully or with limited hours during much of the pandemic.
Lastly, a major concern was and continues to be safety. As children under 12 are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, there are fewer mitigation measures available to protect drivers and riders.
5. Become a Bus Driver
The first step to becoming a bus driver is passing a criminal background check, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s.
Additionally, all drivers must meet the physical and medical standards for school bus endorsements and hold a commercial drivers license.
To apply to drive for Hudson, drop off a resumé and cover letter or a completed application to Safeway Bus Company.
The River Falls School District is willing to create a work schedule that matches that of anyone interested in becoming a driver or substitute driver. Morning and afternoon shifts are available.