Survey shows impact of the driver shortage on school bus contractors

A recent survey shows the impact of the driver shortage on private school bus contractors as the country rebounds from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The information comes from the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), which recently conducted a flash poll to measure the severity of the school bus driver shortage from a national perspective.

According to the poll, 12% of respondents reported they were down drivers by more than 20%, and 16% said their driver workforce had dropped between 16%–20%. Poll results showed that 28% of respondents saw a 6%–10% shortfall in their driver workforce, followed closely by 26% of survey takers who indicated being down 11%–15%. Overall, poll results showed that 94% of respondents indicated that they were not at expected bus driver staffing levels.

‘Severe’ driver shortage

“This NSTA poll validates what we already knew to be true, that a severe school bus driver shortage continues to impact student transportation,” said NSTA Executive Director Curt Macysyn. “As you can see, the driver shortage has impacted operations throughout the United States, and by aggregating this data, we see that 54% of survey respondents said that they are more than 10% short of drivers. That’s a staggering number.”

Private school bus operators provide nearly 40% of the nation’s school bus service in 200,000 yellow school buses with close to 380,000 employees. Each day, almost 26 million children rely on the school bus as their primary way to get to school in the safest way possible.

This survey was conducted by NSTA from March 7–14 in partnership with Transfinder Infomatics, a developer of school bus routing and logistics software.

NSTA continues to work with policymakers at the national and state levels to provide solutions that will achieve the result of getting more school bus driver applicants trained, qualified, licensed and behind the wheel without delay. 

Despite waiver, shortage persists

The recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granting of a waiver for the engine compartment component of the pre-trip vehicle inspection skills testing requirement — known informally as the “under-the-hood” component — for commercial driver’s license (CDL) applicants is an example of how the CDL process can be streamlined without any impact to safety.

However, the waiver expires on March 31, and as the survey results show, the industry continues to be adversely affected by the driver shortage.

Statistics indicate that students are significantly safer riding to and from school in a school bus than walking, riding bikes, or riding/driving in the family vehicle. The number of fatalities of school-age children traveling to and from school, per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), is 70 times higher in passenger vehicles than in school buses.

“The iconic yellow bus represents the safest and most efficient way to get children to school each day, so the driver shortage affects communities in an impactful way,” Macysyn said.


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