Driver shortage | Back to school with no yellow buses in the US

(Washington) Students in the US go back to school after a year spent mostly behind their computers, but often have to get by without school buses as many stay in the garage for a lack of drivers.

Posted on Aug 30, 2021 11:46 AM

Julie CHABANAS Agence France-Presse

The Minneapolis, Minnesota area warned families, “School buses are scheduled to run infrequently in the fall due to driver shortages. […] in all countries. ”

Parents are therefore called upon and encouraged to take care of the transport of their offspring themselves. A private school in Wilmington, home of Joe Biden, Delaware, offers taxi-cab parents as much as $ 700 a year.

Back to school is not always the same: some students returned to school in late July, such as in the Chandler, Arizona school district, while others didn’t return until September.

But with the transport problems, the holidays are sometimes a little longer. For example, public schools in Pittsburgh, Ohio have decided to postpone return to school for two weeks to give themselves time to find solutions. They are still missing 5,000 places on school buses.

Resignation because of the mask

Drivers have been missing for several years, but COVID-19 has accelerated movement.

“We have many drivers doing this work in addition to their retirement,” said AFP Greg Jackson, transportation manager for Jeffco School District in Colorado, who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

There are also those who chose not to come back because they were against it […] (the obligation) to wear a mask.

Greg Jackson, school transportation manager in Jeffco, Colorado.

Faced with these difficulties, officials across the country are wrestling to send after 18 months of mostly virtual school students eager to find their friends and teachers.

Office workers are obliged to drive, bus routes are extended, stops are grouped … The waiting lists are sometimes long to be among the lucky ones who take the yellow bus to school.

And to attract candidates, recruiting looks like an auction, with higher salaries or hiring rewards that sometimes reach $ 4,000.

“No joke”

The workforce has been reduced by a quarter since the pandemic began, with 158,000 drivers in June, according to official figures from the Bureau of Statistics (BLS).

Recruiting sites are amassing 5,000 school driver vacancies, nearly double pre-crisis and a record, said AFP Julia Pollak, economist at ZipRecruiter.com.

“The average salary of a school bus driver is approx. […] $ 16 an hour. It is precisely in this salary class that employers report the greatest difficulties in filling vacant positions, ”explains Julia Pollak.

It’s not just school buses that have a shortage of staff: since the crisis, many employers have found it difficult to find candidates for the lowest-paid positions.

And once the volunteers are found, the puzzle is far from solved, says Greg Jackson. After several weeks of training, it is to be hoped that the recruits will not use this qualification to enter the more profitable private sector: “That has happened many times. ”

“I hope the parents understand that this is not a joke,” he comments. “The teams do everything they can”, but “it won’t be the same service as it used to be”.

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