As the new school year begins, districts around the United States are trying to find bus drivers to fill vacancies on their routes.
Bus driver shortages is not a new problem, as many districts were understaffed last school year. However, the problem is poised to be an issue again this term based on recent data from School Bus Fleet magazine.
In a recent survey published by the magazine, 5.3 percent of participating school districts said their driver shortage was desperate (needing at least 16 percent more drivers), 20 percent said their shortage was severe (needing 11 to 15 percent more drivers), and 40 percent rated their shortage as moderate (needing between 6 and 10 percent more drivers).
Residents in Polk County, Fla., felt the impact during the first week of school. According to ABC Action News, the district is short 62 drivers, which led to 85 buses and 110 routes running late on the first day of school on Aug. 13. Until new drivers are hired and trained, district officials are asking parents to drive their kids to school, if possible.
As other districts around the country try to avoid having similar issues as Polk County, here are some ways to attract new hires for this school year.
Offer Competitive Pay and Incentives
Some districts are trying to lure more potential drivers to their area by increasing compensation. In Virginia, some school districts are raising driver pay by up to nearly 5 to 10 percent.
“When somebody thinks do I want to be a bus driver, they’re going to want to know what the pay is,” Henrico County Public School Pupil Transportation Director Josh Davis told Richmond, Va., TV station WRIC.
In South Bend, Ind., the district is offering higher pay and better routes to attract more drivers. South Bend superintendent Ken Spells told TV station WSBT their bus drivers are offered full-time hours and a sign-on bonus of $800, in addition to the starting wage of $19.97 an hour. South Bend also offers free CDL training to new drivers.
Pay increases helped Horry County Schools in South Carolina meet its goal for drivers for this school year. According to School Transportation News and ABC 15, last year the school district was short 47 drivers. This year it needs to fill only four more slots. To attract more drivers the district increased hourly pay by $1, raising hourly wages from $12 to $13. According to School Transportation News, this pay increase encouraged current drivers to stay on for this school year and attracted new hires.
These school districts are following the national trend of increasing pay for bus drivers. According to School Bus Fleet, the average starting pay for school bus drivers will increase by 40 cents in 2018. The national average is now $17.30 an hour, compared to $16.90 in 2017.
Highlight Schedule Benefits
In addition to financial perks, promoting convenient work schedules can also help recruit new bus drivers. A bus driver’s schedule can allow parents to work while their kids are at school, with similar start and end times, as well as days off.
Lina Price, a school bus driver in Henrico County, Va., told WRIC having a work schedule similar to her children’s school schedules is one of the perks she enjoys.
“You have weekends off when they do. You have Christmas break. You have spring break,” Price told WRIC. “If you have snow days because of school being out, then you don’t have to find a babysitter because if they’re off, you’re off.”
Recruit with Current Drivers
When getting the word out about driver openings, don’t overlook your current bus drivers. Word-of-mouth can be an effective marketing tool, and it can resonate even more when current employees are offering the testimonials.
In Tucson, Ariz., Tucson Unified School District launched a video campaign where their current drivers spoke of the impact they have on the lives of students. The campaign highlights the importance and benefits of being a school bus driver.
Advertise Openings in Your Community
Advertising is another effective marketing tool to recruit new bus drivers. Use methods such as hanging flyers around the local area and advertising in school and church bulletins to recruit residents. To extend your reach, utilize career boards, social media platforms, chat rooms and online community groups to post your job listings.
Also, don’t overlook the benefits of holding job fairs. These allow you to connect with a large group of people during a short time to conduct on-the-spot interviews and screenings. This can help you expedite the hiring process and speak to the benefits of becoming a bus driver.
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Blurb photo courtesy of Pixabay.com