Albert said, when asked how many drivers he would need to cover the summer programs. When the district opened for in-person learning in the spring, Albert said ridership was less than half of normal, but his routes had increased to keep students social distanced. “We were skating on thin ice all

year,” Albert explained. “Everybody was going through the same strug- gles with the pandemic. Any given day, we lost two, three, four drivers due to close contact type stuff and having to quarantine.” A School Transportation News

survey conducted in February 2020 found that 80 percent of school districts surveyed were short driv- ers. When the pandemic fully took hold a month later, many drivers who were on the brink of retirement opted to hang up their keys. Schools that ran remote when the school year started in August em- ployed drivers to deliver meals and supplies, but overall need severely decreased. Schools that opened for in-person learning increased routes and suddenly employed frontline workers, adding new risk to an already difficult job. A survey con- ducted by STN in April found that 82 percent of readers said they need more drivers on staff. “If we could clone them, it would

be great,” said Zada Stamper, trans- portation director of Laurel Public Schools in Yellowstone County, Montana. “[In April] we were short like three to four drivers.” On a typical day, Laurel Public Schools moves 500 of its 2,100 students on 12 routes with nine drivers. The longest route runs 50 miles into the hills and back. When left with six drivers, Stamper said she doubled up on routes and called parents to tell them the students would be late. “Our parents are understanding.

There are some routes we just run late,” Stamper said. “The sad thing is [that] it seems like everybody is accepting the fact that my bus is going to be late to school today. It’s not like, ‘Oh, hey you know, maybe I do have two days a week I can drive a bus.’” With an average driver age of 65

years old, Stamper said retirement is her biggest competitor. “I have two drivers that were go- ing to retire last year, but you know, I’m a really good beggar,” she said. The district does not offer benefits to part-time drivers but is consid- ering doing so, on top of paying $15.49 an hour and a $1,000 bonus. “It’s not that we couldn’t afford it.

If we could find drivers, we can pay you,” Stamper said. “Obviously, it’s not just in our district, it’s every sin- gle district I talked to in Montana.” While shifting demands from the

pandemic didn’t help, the under- lying issues existed before schools went remote in 2020 and is likely to remain even as demand increases. “We were short people before

COVID-19 came,” said Kris Al- len, transportation supervisor for Wasatch County School District in Herber, Utah. The district opened in August and remained open all school year, transporting 6,000 students on 49 buses. Allen combined routes so the dis-

trict’s 38 drivers could cover more ground, but she said she’s still 12 drivers short. “We know that there’s been a

shortage forever, so how do you fix something that was broken before? You guys throw money at it? What’s going to attract drivers? What’s go- ing to be different?” Allen asked. She added that there’s a chart in

her office that uses yellow cards to signify routes that have yet to be assigned to drivers. “I’m looking at all yellow cards because we have less drivers, more

AUTO-JET.COM 800-247-5391

John Rapp President



With radiators, DPFs, EGRs and more than 30,000 exhaust parts, it’s no wonder Auto-jet is the choice of school bus systems coast to coast. 19

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52