The National School Transportation Association’s Mid-Winter Meeting wrapped today in Bonita Springs, Florida, where the discussion among school bus contractors and interested parties centered on the national driver shortage.
John Benish Jr., COO of Cook-Illinois Corporation in Chicago, told STN via email that the situation is growing worse. "It’s pretty bad," said Benish.
In a presentation this week, NSTA pointed out that as Baby Boomers continue to get older, the pool to draw traditional driver applicants is shrinking. This means contractors and school districts are being forced to be more resourceful in attracting new driver candidates with additional programs, such as recruitment drives and sign-on bonues, which in turn increase costs.
Added challenges include new laws passed in several states, including California, that now require employers to provide minimum sick pay for all employees, regardless if they are full time or not. NSTA also pointed to rising healthcare premiums, uncertainty surrounding Obamacare, worker’s compensation and vehicle insurance.
“The result: Driver wages and recruiting costs are under tremendous pressure and are increasing at a rate greater than CPI,” wrote the NSTA.
Meanwhile, NSTA said contractors are being forced to replace school buses that cost $55,000 to $65,000 with new buses that cost between $85,000 and $100,000, roughly triple the rate of CPI.
NSTA concluded during its presentation that all these pressures facing contractors are also impacting the abilities of school district across the country to manage transportation. However, this also provides growth opportunities in terms of charters, school trips, specialized equipment and rates.