Searching for the Driver’s Seat

National school bus driver shortage has potential to impact NA

Back to Article
Back to Article

Searching for the Driver’s Seat

photo by D. Crickets

photo by D. Crickets

photo by D. Crickets

Rachel Morrell, Junior Co-Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






It’s 6:55 am. The wave of high school buses starts to pour in, drops dreary teenagers off at school, and then rushes away to pick up all the middle school kids, then elementary. This cycle repeats early afternoon starting when high school lets out. Many buses have to transfer students from NAI to NASH and from the middle schools to NAI to accommodate their classes. Clubs and classes take field trips during the school day, and transportation is needed there, too.

There is a constant need for bus drivers throughout the school week, but due to a nationwide bus driver shortage, some school districts are barely getting by. This shortage ironically stems from a stronger economy and a declining unemployment rate — as it turns out, fewer and fewer people are seeking the job of driving a school bus.  

Mr. Roger Sechler, NA’s Director of Business Operations, said that North Allegheny is no exception to the recent trend. In response to the bus driver shortage, NA and many districts across the country are in a similar predicament and must have their maintenance and delivery staff step in to transport students across the district and actively run advertisements offering positions and bonuses to attract needed new drivers. 

I would prefer to have more drivers on our staff, since we are currently using members of our moving and delivery and mechanic team to help drive each day, but we need to grow in order to fill in some gaps. Our fleet hasn’t grown the way that we want.”

— Roger Sechler, NA Director of Operations

“We have been able to manage,” Sechler explained. “I would prefer to have more drivers on our staff, since we are currently using members of our moving and delivery and mechanic team to help drive each day, but we need to grow in order to fill in some gaps. Our fleet hasn’t grown the way that we want.”

The low number of new hires is the result of a variety of factors. From the split-shift schedules to the variety of clearances and necessary licenses, the job can appear less desirable than other jobs that offer the same pay. 

“To be a commercial driver, you need to obtain a Class B CDL license, go through a training program, pass a knowledge and driving skill test, and obtain a passenger endorsement and operator endorsement specifically for school buses,” Sechler said. “Security and background checks are also required and specific to the state and school district.”

Although the shortage is impacting the community locally, NA hasn’t faced some of the situations that other school districts have had to tackle across the country. According to the Associated Press, In Iowa’s Southeast Polk Community School District, “51 drivers — mainly retirees and stay-at-home parents — are relied on to transport roughly 3,400 students to and from school each day.” Many of the drivers are doing “double duty,” such as taking up more school jobs while driving to support the needs. The result is cutbacks in routes, longer waits for kids at bus stops, and overcrowding on buses.

If NA’s number of driving employees were to decline further, Mr. Sechler said that the district does in fact have a plan just in case.

“We would have to pull more backup drivers like mechanics or deliveries but mainly refine bus routes and bus stops,” he said. “More problems would arise, though, such as increasing the length of rides and more crowded buses.”