Bus driver shortage affects B-A


Johanna Heckman

Like many other districts, B-A is feeling to crunch of a bus driver shortage.

Johanna Heckman, Staff Writer

Sports transportation is just one area that has been hit hard by the pandemic, but its been significant.

Bellwood-Antis, for example, has struggled at times to get bus drivers to drive students athletes to their events, often doubling up on buses for sports and school transportation.

“Occasionally we have to move the bus times to earlier or later so we have a driver and a bus available,” he said. “If we leave earlier, it is so the bus can return and run an after-school route.”

This isn’t just a local problem, but a national issue. Raystown Transport, which services Bellwood-Antis and Tyrone, among other area schools, has experienced a crunch for bus drives. 

Even before COVID there was always a concern of not having enough bus drivers. Now there is just even more of a struggle.

— Shae Harkleroad

COVID concerns are one reason for the shortage. The majority of bus drivers are in their late 50’s according to Zippia The Career Expert, which makes them susceptible to infection. Driving a bus full of kids who don’t want to wear their masks could make bus drivers uncomfortable.

“The U.S. transit bus driver workforce has declined from 179,510 in 2019 to 162,850 in 2020. The number of people driving buses and associated jobs like chauffeuring and taxi driving fell from 700,030 in 2019 to 599,980 in 2020,” said State Smart Transportation Initiative.

However, COVID isn’t the only reason for the decline in bus drivers. In fact, it is something that was happening well before 2020.

“Even before COVID there was always a concern of not having enough bus drivers. Now there is just even more of a struggle,” said Shae Harkleroad from Raystown Transit. 

The result has been districts finding unique ways to fill the void. At Crestwood Local Schools in Ohio, for example, custodians and teachers have gotten their CDL license and begun picking up bus routes.

According to Harkleroad, there aren’t a lot of  people who want to become a bus driver early in their working career. They usually wait till they are retired from their other job, which makes it even more difficult to hire people. Fewer people are going into this profession.

Another factor is pay. Bus drivers may get paid $14-21 dollars an hour on average and to make it to $25 takes years of service.

In the end this is like other shortages that are happening in the education system, whether that is with substitutes for teachers or just teachers in general. Following the return from COVID lockdowns,  75% of schools are now facing at least moderate staffing shortages.