School Bus Driver Shortages in the Age of COVID-19
published on September 01, 2020 by Sonia Mastros
The problem of finding enough school bus drivers to keep districts' bus routes running is nothing new. Districts have been facing a bus driver shortage for years, without any real sign of the situation getting better. Now, however, there's a new factor at play: the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Schools that have decided to re-open in the fall are now in a precarious situation. They need drivers more than ever, particularly when social distancing mandates mean that buses cannot be run fully loaded. More routes - and probably more drivers - are called for. Some districts report that they're having a harder time than ever finding drivers; others point to the glut of unemployed workers as a great opportunity to hire.
Millions of Americans are out of work, so there is absolutely a possibility of boosting your bus driver ranks. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Tips for Hiring More School Bus Drivers During the Coronavirus Outbreak
1. Engage in outreach.
There are undoubtedly people in your community in need of work, and some of them are potentially fit to be school bus drivers. Reach out to them! Now is the time to be running ads on local radio and the papers, or putting "help wanted" style signs on your various official vehicles to be seen as they drive around town.
2. Emphasize safety.
One of the most pressing questions anyone is likely to have if they're considering a bus driver position is what the school will be doing to keep them safe from infection. Make your safety procedures part of the pitch! Do whatever you can to assure them that they'll have the help and support they'll need to stay safe.
Alongside this, be sure to talk up your health insurance policies. If your district doesn't currently offer insurance to part-time employees, this is a good time to reconsider that policy.
3. Look into paying for training.
As we've discussed in previous blogs, districts have had great success in hiring more drivers by covering their training costs. Since driver certification takes several weeks of study, plus testing, this can make a major difference in whether potential drivers are willing to sign up. If it's risk-free for the driver applicants, they'll be more willing to sign up.
4. Got enough drivers? Get backups.
Realistically, a district can't assume that all its employees are going to remain disease-free. Even if your staffing levels are acceptable, it would still be a very good idea to get some backups in place, just in case multiple drivers have to call in sick. Remember: While the coronavirus is active, working while infected is not an option.
Has your district come up with clever ways to recruit more school bus drivers? Share your own tips in the comments!