NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR PUPIL TRANSPORTATION (NAPT®) RESPONDS TO SCHOOL BUS DRIVER SHORTAGE
Beginning this week, students from across the nation will return to school and many will do so via the yellow school bus. The school bus industry is dealing with a significant shortage of school bus drivers —a complex problem that pre-dated but was exacerbated by COVID school shutdowns.
Pupil Transportation in the U.S. is a large enterprise involving some 25 million children and nearly a half million buses moving them to and from schools every school day. In fact, school buses are the largest form of mass transit in the country.
Beginning this week, students from across the nation will return to school and many will do so via the yellow school bus. The school bus industry is dealing with a significant shortage of school bus drivers —a complex problem that pre-dated but was exacerbated by COVID school shutdowns. The driver shortage remains a high priority for districts, as does maintaining the safety record of large yellow school buses, consistently the best in the transportation industry. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) underscores it's the safest way for children to get to and from school.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the entire transportation sector, including airlines, motorcoach operators, trains and rideshare companies, along with many other industries, are experiencing staff shortages that impact operations.
Yet this year, addressing the driver shortage feels different for the leaders of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT®). Why? President, Rick Grisham, explains “The school bus driver shortage is not a new issue, and yet there is an immediate and deeper need from pupil transportation professionals to respond to it with innovative and existing tactics in order to provide students the safety, security, and normalcy that they all so deeply crave and deserve since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Grisham adds “NAPT®'s vision is “a world where every student has access to safe and efficient transportation,” and therefore, the leadership of NAPT® will continue to be part of the solution that combats the driver shortage by tirelessly checking in with ourselves and our members to ensure that the work we are doing reflects our vision.”
Support and Solutions:
While there are always inevitable variations in service caused by the unavoidable, traffic conditions, accidents, and weather, on time performance is the reality experienced by most children and families served by the school bus industry.
In fact, during recent town hall meetings conducted across various NAPT® regions, association leadership heard from members who are doing everything that they possibly can to resolve the driver shortage in their districts to facilitate on time performance.
What can we as a nation do? Reflect and support.
Reflect on the early stages of the pandemic where news stories of the yellow school bus were not about the driver shortage but rather about school buses offering mobile Wi-Fi and cellular service while school bus drivers delivered food and homework to those in need. The pupil transportation industry needs you to remember those times now and recognize that it is those same professionals and school buses that will work hard daily to deliver students to and from school, safely and efficiently.
Support follows reflection; here is what that can look like for all involved:
- Districts: Communicate early, often, and honestly about any transportation disturbances.
- Parents: Remain calm and patient; your children will look to you.
- Organizations: Discuss with your working parent employees the challenges that they may face during the school year. Be understanding and offer help where you are able.
- Those who can: Learn how to become a school bus driver for your district.
Will there be challenges? Possibly. However, we firmly believe that it will help provide the best educational experience for our children.