OAK PARK, Mich. – “Bus drivers wanted” signs have been popping up everywhere, making it clear that there is a need for school bus drivers ahead of the start of school.
Oak Park City School District Operations Manager Steve Burnett said his school district and others need drivers now more than ever.
“Too many people are staying home, and we need people to do these jobs. I’ve been all the way to Hawaii, and there are signs up at every state I visit,” Burnett said.
There was already a steady decline in bus drivers before the COVID pandemic. Dave Meeuwsen is the executive director of the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation.
He said the lack of bus drivers is a crisis that is impacting the entire nation. Part of the issue is how long the hiring process takes.
“It takes a good month to get somebody trained. So, it’s not like I can put out an ad for a bus driver today and put you to work tomorrow,” Meeuwsen said.
Meeuwsen said they’re having a hard time filling positions because it’s only a part-time job.
“It’s a rough time because it’s not a full-time job. It’s a few hours in the morning, a few hours in the afternoon, potentially a field trip here or there. Maybe a noon run, but you can’t support a family on bus driving,” Meeuwsen said.
Even with multiple incentives and pay raises to nearly $20 an hour, there is still a lack of bus drivers.
“I want to say they gave their drivers a $6 raise, but they were at $13. You and I can go to McDonald’s and start at $16,” Meeuwsen said. “Our starting wage is $19 an hour. You still have to have another job to support a family.”
Experts said finding bus monitors is an even more difficult task.