“Crowded bus stops, confusion, and unreliable bus times have all made school more of a challenge,” writes PJ O’Grady in Prospect Now, the student newspaper at Prospect High School in Mt Prospect, Illinois.
About 80 percent of school districts nationwide reported difficulty finding enough bus drivers to cover the routes to and from school in a survey by HopSkipDrive, which tracks school bus issues, Time Magazine reported.
In most states, driving a school bus requires a CDL license, the same classification as truck drivers, along with a special endorsement to transport students. Truck drivers, however, make quite a bit more money—on average about $5 an hour—than bus drivers. And the need to keep buses sanitized and masked doesn’t make the job any more palatable to potential drivers with a CDL license.
Maryland is no exception to the national trend: Baltimore County Public Schools started the school year Monday about 80 bus drivers short of its usual workforce of 800 or so drivers, WMAR-TV (ABC affiliate) reported.
Anecdotes shared with me off the record suggest that drivers may be working too hard to feel adequately compensated by the pay they receive, which averages about $16.50 an hour (about $33,000 a year for a full-time equivalent employee).
For example, drivers may have routes for a high school first, then for a middle school and an elementary school. Except this year, in order to make up for the number of bus drivers who have dropped out of the workforce, some drivers pick up two busloads of kids for each school.
On top of that, parents whose students weren’t picked up after a certain waiting time on the bus stop chose to drive their kids to school, which then made matters worse by causing bottlenecks in front of schools on frequently busy streets.
Some students at Prospect High School have the option of driving to school or carpooling with seniors or juniors, and the school is making the most of the bus situation, Mr O’Grady wrote.
“At 3:00 PM, the bus drivers take the first round of kids home based on their route,” he reported. “Then the bus goes back to school to take the next group of kids home.”