90% Experiencing Some Degree of Driver Shortage

The Issue
We’re hearing from our clients that Driver Shortage remains a huge challenge, with people in roles from Mechanics to Fleet Managers pitching in to drive and get kids to school on time. According to a survey done in School Bus Fleet Magazine1, 90% of respondents have some degree of school bus driver shortage.  RTA’s CEO, Josh Turley was fortunate to visit with several school districts over the last few months to get the shop perspective on this issue. In those visits, Turley “could feel the struggle for shop managers, who are trying to make sure that they have enough vehicles to cover the routes, but can’t fix the buses because they only have their mechanics for four hours in a day. It puts them in a very difficult position to keep up with not only breakdowns, but routine maintenance and safety checks as well. We’ve discussed how the technician shortage has impacted fleets, but driver shortage is having just as big if not a bigger impact in maintenance operations.”

In addition, a Driver Shortage study conducted by the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) 2, yielded the following responses:
•37% indicated that the bus driver shortage is either severe or desperate for their company or school district.
•52% noted that dealing with driver shortage is their No. 1 problem or concern.
•70% believe the trend of driver shortage is getting a little worse or much worse.

What’s causing this shortage?
NAPT’s 2017 driver shortage survey found that the top factors causing the shortage included benefits, rate of pay, obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL), and the hours available to work. Wait times for taking the CDL exam was reported to be up to six months, causing a major obstacle.

What’s the solution?
We’ve seen suggestions ranging from increasing recruiting efforts, offering bonuses, and optimizing bus routes. One study3 revealed the top steps taken to combat this issue include Advertising, Signing/Referral Bonuses, and Increasing Pay and Benefits.

Many respondents of these studies reported increasing their benefits package to include retirement, dental, and vision care, which has seen a slight increase in driver retention. An optimistic finding: The hiring process is significantly shorter than it was the prior year, decreasing from an average of 28 days to 21 days among unionized organizations.

As these findings show, driver shortage remains a critical issue for our school districts and the children who rely on this transportation. Mike Martin, Executive Director of NAPT4, noted that “sometimes problems need to be brought up so [that] many voices and perspectives can weigh in with potential solutions. That’s especially true in our industry, because challenges invariably have a local flavor, and what works in one district may or may not make sense in another.”

About RTA Fleet Management Software: 
Founded in 1979 with a vision and passion of creating efficient and effective processes and procedures for the fleet maintenance industry, RTA has a long-standing history of leading fleet maintenance into the digital age.  RTA’s software platform has improved fleet maintenance operations for thousands of fleet maintenance shops worldwide and continues to grow its product offerings and client base. Visit www.rtafleet.com to learn more.

Sources:
1School Bus Fleet Magazine: School District Survey, November 2016.
2National Association for Pupil Transportation: Driver Shortage Study, Fall 2016.
3School Bus Fleet’s Top 50 Contractors survey, 2017.
4School Bus Fleet Magazine: Driver Shortage Demands Innovating Thinking, November 2016.