COVID-19 Impacts on the School Bus Industry
published on August 18, 2020 by Sonia Mastros
There has never been a more uncertain time for the school bus industry, at least in recent memory. The outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus has disrupted schools, businesses, and transportation across North America, and there are no signs of that disruption slowing much in the near future.
As fall approaches, schools across the country are contemplating whether they should fully open up, partially re-open, or continue providing online/at-home courses for students. Some districts will undoubtedly opt to fully reopen, and that's going to start bringing new challenges to the school bus industry.
It's impossible to fully predict what lies in the months ahead, but here are some likely ways that COVID-19 will impact school transportation systems going forward.
Dealing With Social Distancing
One of the biggest single challenges with running school buses while the virus is still in active circulation is the problem of distancing. Children simply cannot be packed three-to-a-seat, as was previously standard. This would cause mass infections. Ideally, it should be one child per seat, two at most.
Schools will have to be creative in how they implement this, especially since they are not likely to have enough spare buses to take up all the slack. Most likely, school days will be staggered, or only run for half-days, allowing for more bus routes carrying fewer students on each trip.
Anyone in the business of selling school bus sanitation products, and other equipment designed to encourage social distancing, will likely do well in the months and years ahead. Buses will need to be disinfected after every trip. Dividers, such as plastic barriers, will likely be another popular way to reduce the chances of students spreading infections among each other.
Bus drivers, too, will need to be hyper-aware of their sanitation levels, and take constant steps to improve their cleanliness while on the bus.
New Bus Sales Will Likely Be Down
Most schools are currently having trouble fitting all the necessary anti-COVID safety precautions into their budgets. They are not going to have money for major expenditures like new buses. However, they may be more open to subcontracting some bus routes to third parties, assuming those third party companies have the capacity.
The Silver Lining: More School Bus Drivers
Finally, there is one likely light at the end of this tunnel. Due to the massive spike in people unemployed, or under-employed, as a result of recent economic disruption, there are now many more people seeking work. This will be an excellent opportunity for school districts to boost the ranks of their bus drivers and have more people on standby as backup drivers.
How is your district coping with COVID-19? How are you adjusting your school bus procedures? Let's talk about it in the comments!