Behind the Wheel Struggles: Tackling Bus Driver Shortages and Overloaded Routes

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Students standing in overloaded school bus aisles? That’s the situation some districts are facing, and it’s understatedly dangerous. Most U.S. school buses don’t have overhead handholds, so an unexpected fast stop can send kids tumbling.

schoolbusdriver1One parent reached out to his child’s school transportation department about the standing-room-only situation, and there was no resolution. So he contacted the local television station. Despite school policies that required a maximum of 52 students per bus, the school said too many students continued being crowded onto the buses because “some days there simply aren’t enough bus drivers.”

5 Dangers of Overloaded School Buses

In addition to the obvious risks of minor injuries inside the bus, overloaded buses can also cause:

  1. Bus imbalance – Students tend to “cluster” when standing in an overcrowded bus. The added weight and the irregular weight shifts can unbalance the vehicle. This can lead to control issues for the driver when changing lanes or making turns.
  2. Driver distractions – The noise level increases as well as the peripheral movement behind the driver. This makes it more difficult for drivers to focus on road safety.
  3. Increased collision injuries – There are higher injury rates when bus passengers slam into each other during a collision event.
  4. Mechanical/design failures – Each school bus is designed to operate with maximum weight and bulk. Exceeding manufacturer limits can lead to mechanical and design stressors, including door strength.
  5. Unknown stopping times – The likelihood of a school bus rear-ending another vehicle increases if the driver doesn’t understand that increased mass impacts stopping distance. Even a school bus at full capacity can stop faster than an overloaded bus; drivers can easily misgauge the stopping distance they need.

Money Matters & Managing Risks

If bus driver shortages are causing route problems and overloaded buses, there are several steps we can take to manage the challenges.

Drivers: Increased Pay, Benefits, Responsibilities

Our children are truly the most “precious cargo,” and we can no longer hope to find skilled, professional school bus drivers willing to work for sub-par wages. School districts’ need for bus drivers and transportation technology are interwoven in several ways. Particularly, today’s workers want technology-driven jobs in which they not only depend on software solutions but can also access faster information for safer resolutions.

Bus Overloads: Data-Driven School Bus Populating, Routing

Fleet Optimization can save money by analyzing your current routes. The goal is to manage and possibly reduce the number of buses and drivers you need. Information considerations include:

  • Bus capacities
  • Enrollment-based/rider eligibility
  • Geocoded addresses
  • Mandatory right-side pickups
  • Road hazards
  • Road-rated bus height/weight restriction
  • Route suggestions/hypotheticals
  • Route-specific driver instructions
  • Student age requirements
  • Students per-seat
  • Turn restrictions
  • Walk-to-stop distances
  • …and more

BusBoss understands the need to best utilize available funds without compromising student safety. We can evaluate your current processes for strengths, weaknesses, and offer suggestions based on years of experience with school districts like yours. Call 866-740-8994 or contact BusBoss.

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There are many variables in school transport. What are some of the biggest challenges you face in meeting school bus transportation regulations?