Encouraging Loyalty in School Bus Drivers

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shutterstock_121422835Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, schools around the nation were struggling to find enough school bus drivers to keep all their routes running. The coronavirus only made things worse. It's become harder than ever for schools to find and keep drivers, particularly when many drivers in high-risk groups are unwilling to endanger themselves.

To keep your school district running, you need to be doing everything possible to maintain loyalty among your drivers. Once someone is on the payroll, you need to hang onto them. Here are some suggestions.

Maintaining Loyalty and Morale Among Your School Bus Drivers

1. Make School Bus Disease Prevention a True Top Priority

We know, you're facing pressure to overhaul just about every element of your district to be more sanitary and reduce disease spread. However, the reality is that your bus drivers are borderline irreplaceable. If a driver quits, there's no telling when you'll find another. And if more than a few quit, you could be facing a disaster.

Focus on improvements and upgrades to your buses, so that your drivers genuinely know that they're a top priority. Plus, of course, make sure they have all the PPE and cleaning products they could need.

2. Be Competitive With Wages and Benefits

Do you know what sort of contracts other nearby districts are offering their drivers? If not, find out. Then do better. Drivers know they're in a risky job, and they're going to gravitate towards those districts willing to pay fairly for that risk. Having generous contracts will greatly reduce the chances that drivers will walk away.

3. Include Plenty of Private and Public Acknowledgement

Don't ever let your drivers feel unappreciated. Their efforts and sacrifices should be acknowledged both privately and publicly. In particular, if a driver ever goes above-and-beyond in their service, that should be lauded. Make them feel proud of their contributions to the community.

4. Consider Finding Other Jobs for Them in the District

Another challenge in holding onto bus drivers may be the irregularity of hours, particularly in districts that are primarily doing remote learning during the outbreak. Look for other jobs they might be interested in if they're upset about having hours cut. This keeps them on the payroll.

5. Don't Stop Recruiting

Attrition will happen, and you never know when a driver will legitimately become sick and have to drop out for a month. Keep up your recruiting efforts and do whatever you can to have a few drivers on standby if you need them.

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These are extremely challenging times for school bus transportation coordinators. Have you found any clever ways of keeping your drivers happy and loyal? Please share your ideas in the comments!