Students are getting ready to go back to school, but who will drive them there?
Transportation officials say they are having a hard time finding enough school bus drivers to staff the regularly scheduled routes.
“The driver shortage has been an ongoing issue for many providers even pre-pandemic, and the pandemic ultimately exacerbated the problem,” said Ronald J. Rick Jr., Student Transportation of America New Jersey operations vice president and Rick Bus Co. President. “We are tackling the ongoing driver shortage from every possible angle, but this is not a problem unique to our organization, it is a problem facing all companies in the student transportation industry,” according to a story published by NJ.com.
For example, in southern New Jersey, no companies bid on school bus contracts this fall in Deptford or Burlington Townships, sending officials scrambling for alternatives, NJ.com reported on Aug. 20.
In Burlington, the district’s old contractor dropped out and no others companies bid to provide the services. Those contracts were bid again, but officials warned parents in a letter that they may have to make other contingency plans to get their kids to school in September.
Burlington and Deptford are not alone. The shortage of people with commercial drivers licenses, required to drive any large vehicle from a delivery van to a bus to a tanker truck, has left school districts and school bus companies struggling to find properly licensed drivers.
Camden City schools have also announced a two-tiered school opening and dismissal time change, citing transportation needs as one of three reasons for the change, in a June letter from Superintendent Katrina T. McCombs, NJ.com reported.
“A lot (of bus contractors) are dropping out because they don’t have the drivers,” Barbara Sargeant, School Transportation Supervisors of New Jersey president. “It’s country wide.”