Why The School Bus Industry Is Getting The Worst Of the Driver Shortage

Earlier this week we saw …..

 

 

Wow!

 

To be clear, there was a driver shortage well before Covid, but the pandemic has accelerated and exacerbated the situation tenfold. Every bus company is short-staffed, but why are school bus companies getting the worst of it?

queue of pupils standing near school bus with teacher

No Room For Career Growth

In the most straightforward way, driving a school bus is not a career for 95% of the population. It’s a short-term job. Most drivers don’t pursue school bus opportunities because it promises a long-term career with great pay benefits, and full retirement, in fact, it’s the exact opposite.

 

 For those who are looking to have a career as a bus driver abroad, school buses represent a great entry point, quick(not great) money, and relatively easy work. 

 

What they do not represent is stability, long-term employment, and a tier-based wage increase system.

 

In short, unfortunately driving a school bus is a dead-end job. 

 

You don’t get paid when school is out, unemployment becomes an active part of your employment and there’s no progressive system of advancement or promotion. This isn comparable to teachers who work for the same schools. Teachers can expand their profession to colleges, universities, private institutions, and even online.

 

When you’re a school bus driver, you are just that….a school bus driver.

Absence of Contractors and The Self-Employed

 

Most industries from medicine to tech are filled with a combination of employees of big companies and independent contractors. For every major hospital, there is a private practice. For every big law firm, there are independent lawyers. For every 23 story business hub, there’s someone who runs a business from home.

 

For school drivers, no such model exists

 

Due to procurement and unions having strict guidelines forbidding subcontracting, independent contractors like myself can’t drive or staff drivers to companies in need. Under the terms, our businesses are set under.

To Many People on The Elevator

While finding drivers presents major difficulties, keeping them is an entirely different animal. This is due in part to having multiple school bus vendors to choose from. This creates a Wild Wild West of sorts for drivers.  In certain markets, you can end up with 5 to 10 companies all offering the same thing with the exception being small changes in  wage. The same hours, same buses same company infrastructure. However, company A offers $19.50  an hour while company B offers $20 an hour, while company C offers $20.50 an hour. 

 

There’s no clear competitive advantage when it comes to retaining drivers. Again this is a result of procurement and government-based contracts. It’s extremely difficult for some companies to set themselves apart from their competition because they all typically have to play by the same rules.

 

In the example above with an average of 25 hours a week, we’re looking at anywhere from a $10-$20 difference per week. This causes a lot of drivers to move around. Some companies have tried to offer signing bonuses to combat this however most signing bonuses are around a year out, and most drivers do not feel the bonus is worth it.

No Flexibility In Hours

School buses service schools, right?

 

 This means that drivers are in the yard and en route while you are getting your kids up and ready for the school day.

 

The question is, who gets the school bus driver’s kids ready?

 

The babysitter? The nanny? A family member, which one? You tell me.

 

Do you know how hard it is to find a nanny at 5 am?

 

 School buses typically have fixed hours that conflict directly with most parent’s schedules for their own kids.

 

The reality is bus transportation, in general, was built and thrived in a time where 2 parent homes were much more common and the economy was much more affordable. It was its at its peak in an era where one could drive a school bus and still sustain a decent quality of life. That is no longer the case. 

 

While some school bus companies offer a “bring your child to work” offer, this doesn’t help with kids who are currently in school who need to be prepped in the morning or supervised in the evening.  This is good for pre-schoolers who are not going to sit down and sit still on this super awesome yellow bus. I know because I have one!

 

Being a bus driver, in general, has a specific type of employee profile that can actually excel in this business, and unfortunately, that profile does not align with the majority of applicable drivers

 

Location

 

In the simplest terms, most school bus drivers cannot afford to live in the rural and suburban areas they serve and the locals in that community aren’t typically bus drivers. This means that being a school bus driver typically comes with a lengthy commute which can turn a lot of drivers off.

 

 

However, this is where the solution lies.

 

Employing the locals.

 

By going into communities and giving the locals the necessary education and resources, school bus companies can sustain operations by building a sense of charge and responsibility to the communities it serves, to help with our kids.

 

The old cliche is it takes a village to raise a child, and that statement couldn’t be more true. As a local of the clover field community here in Glen Burnie,  I’d gladly work alongside our HOA, other parents like me, and our local schools to do my part in making sure our kids get to school and I’m sure a lot of other parents would too. But I have a CDL, others don’t But the desire is there– if it wasn’t carpools wouldn’t be a thing.  Now we just need to equip these people with a CDL and the Supir community accelerator does just that!

 

 

Our 90-day community accelerator works with schools, local neighborhoods, and school bus companies to help them utilize the power of their community to attack the school driver shortage head-on!

 

The program is free for parents and community members and provides them with all of the tools training and mentorship to get them prepared to drive a school bus on behalf of their neighborhood! 

 

To find out more shoot me a message on Linkedin 

Or schedule a free consultation to see how we can empower your recruitment

Patrick Parents
Patrick Parents

Sabrina is a content creator and blogger at Supir.

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