National survey: More than half of schools consider bus driver shortage ‘severe’ or ‘desperate’

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC)— More than half of schools across the country are reporting their bus driver shortage as "desperate" or "severe", that’s according to a new multi-agency survey.

The survey was conducted by the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), and the National School Transportation, it was based on 1,500 responses.

Among the findings:

  • 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.
  • 91% said they have altered service to elementary schools, 90% have altered service to middle schools, and 83% have altered service to high schools.
  • Roughly two-thirds of all respondents, about 65%, indicated that bus driver shortage is their
    number one problem or concern. Only 1% said a shortage is not a problem for them.

Additionally, 78% said their shortage is getting worse.

As we’ve reported, shortages have impacted several local districts, most notably, the Rochester City School District. The district faced multiple resignations that left more than 300 students without a ride at one point. The district then began its temporary partnership with Regional Transit Services just a couple of weeks ago on the first day of classes. The district’s superintendent announced all students should have a ride by Thursday.

On a state level, NY Gov. Kathy Hochul outlined a plan to address the shortage throughout the state. The plan includes short-term steps to remove barriers and recruit traditional and non-traditional Commercial Driver’s License holders, among other moves.

Rep. Joe Morelle (D, NY-25) has reached out to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, asking him to consider waiving the commercial driver’s license requirement for school bus drivers.

The study found it takes about 16 days to get through the hiring process in our area, with most being 22 days out west. As for why drivers are either leaving or not showing up, half of the respondents said the rate of pay was a major factor, 45% cited the length of time to secure a CDL, 38% the“availability of benefits, and another 38% said it the hours available to work.

A more New York-specific poll found similar reasons.

Pollers said they were "vitally concerned" about the short-term impact of the shortages, but did leave open optimism about finding solutions.

Those who are interested in obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License can find information here.