School districts from coast to coast are struggling to hire enough bus drivers to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was the perfect storm, âsaid Curt Macysyn, executive director of the National School Transportation Association.
Most school districts say they had a huge problem attracting and retaining drivers before the pandemic – but now their jobs are even more difficult. âWe are in competition with other school districts. We compete with FedEx, we compete with Amazon, âsays Danielle Floyd, general manager of transportation for the Philadelphia School District. She points out that the job requires a commercial driver’s license and a natural ability to communicate with children.
âI see signs all the time that people want to hire drivers,â says Jeremy Hallorai of upstate New York. âIf we don’t have them, we won’t be able to get our children to and from school,â Hallorai adds.
The shortage is such a big problem that many districts across the country have had to get creative. In addition to offering attractive employment opportunities for potential drivers – which include competitive hourly wages, health benefits, and flexible hours – some districts like Fairfax, Va., Offer signing bonuses of 2,000. $ to drivers. Other districts are so desperate that they offer to pay parents to drive their own children to school. A Delaware school is offering $ 700 per child.
Another barrier to hiring drivers is mandatory drug test forms. Because more than a dozen states have legalized marijuana, many districts are finding that applicants are unable to pass the initial drug test or the random drug tests that take place during the tenure of employment. .
âUnfortunately, if they have this in their system, we have to test them so they can’t drive,â says John Benish Jr., chief operating officer of the Cook-Illinois Corporation, which has 18 subsidiaries of school buses. âWe’ve had quite a few people failing the drug test,â Benish adds.
The National School Transportation Association (NSTA), of which Benish is president, supports S. 1557, the National Signature Bonus Act. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Would redirect the expanded pandemic unemployment benefits from the CARES Act and other COVID-19 relief bills to people who get jobs as federal signing bonus equal to 101% of two months of unemployment, to be paid in installments.
“The NSTA commends Senator Sasse and the states of Alabama, Montana and South Carolina for taking proactive steps to provide tangible incentives for applicants to enter or re-enter the workforce,” Carina Noble , senior vice president of communications and external affairs for National Express and president-elect of NSTA, said in a statement.