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Why & How to Increase School Bus Driver Hiring Standards

School buses are one of the primary ways for children get to school to receive an education. It’s important to safeguard them not only in schools themselves, but also on the road. Unfortunately, many children still remain at risk of road-related danger.

The Pew Charitable Trust’s report on dangerous bus rides found that at least 118 drivers have been caught by the police operating a school bus while impaired by drugs or alcohol. This has put at risk the lives of more than 1,620 school children in 38 states, which should never be the case.

Considerations should be made to improve hiring standards for bus drivers to ensure the safety of school children. By changing bus driver hiring standards, there will be a greater assurance for companies, parents, and children that their local school bus driver will keep all kids safe until they graduate.

How Can Hiring Improve?

With the post-COVID-19 transition from online to onsite classes, there has also been a school bus driver shortage in the U.S. The Desert Sun reports that the Coachella Valley Unified School District in California, for instance, has 78 bus routes but only 65 drivers. Hiring has been difficult and high rates of driver absenteeism persist, leading to students waiting over an hour to get picked up daily or arriving at school after classes have begun.

Related: Chicago School Bus Driver Shortage Worries Parents as First Day of School is Near
Related: Ease Your Staffing Shortages
Related: Virginia High School Students Create Solution to Bus Driver Shortage Plus Win $6,500
Related: Update: Nevada School District Raises Pay Amid Bus Driver Shortage
Related: ‘Staggering’ Number of NSTA Members Short Bus Drivers by Over 10%

For employers, it’s important to consider different hiring practices to recruit qualified drivers within the district. Here are some tips on how school districts and bus companies can both increase driver standards and applications.

Change Advertisement Tactics

There are responsible drivers in the community who are simply unaware of school bus driving opportunities. School districts can opt to increase the avenues of advertisements in which they promote their job listings, such as using direct-to-mail campaigning or posters around town. Where allowed, the school buses themselves can also have recruitment signs attached to the side for more exposure. They can also opt for more modern marketing techniques, such as using paid advertisements on social media to target those that may be interested in driving buses.

It may be helpful to change advertising angles as well. Retired truckers or parents looking for part-time work may grow interested in becoming a school bus driver, as these opportunities offer shorter hours and school holidays — with the chance to align your schedule with your children.

Use Technology to Ease the Application Process

In recent years, technology has made many things more convenient by optimizing systems. Software and programs are now available to streamline job interviews, helping recruiters choose the best drivers for the task. An article on managing the hiring process by LHH found that 56 percent of respondents to a workforce trends survey are making greater use of virtual screenings and interviews, as these can expand candidate pools and diversity for applicants.

Moreover, technology can shorten the time to hire as well as ensure frequent, personal communications throughout the candidate’s journey. Many recruitment platforms offer applicant tracking systems that allow employers to easily screen their candidates and monitor which part of the application process they are in. This way, both employers and applicants can have a better grasp of what is to be expected of them and a better overall hiring experience.

Offer Better Employee Benefits

It can be difficult to recruit bus drivers because they are required to have a commercial driver’s license by law yet tend to have fewer hours available to them than a regular full-time employee. The best way to compensate for this is to improve working conditions and provide good benefits or bonuses. Recruiters can further make the role competitive and engaging for new drivers, perhaps by having incentivized referral programs where current drivers can invite other candidates through word-of-mouth.

Related: FMCSA Extends ‘Under the Hood’ Waiver Again for ‘Peak Hiring Season’
Related: (STN Podcast E87) It’s All About People: Zeroed in on Student Safety & School Bus Driver Hiring

The STN Special Report on “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” also encourages recruiters to write job postings that appeal to people of color. Free training should be offered to all drivers as well — not only to update them on driving rules and regulations, but also to teach them how to be more inclusive and approach their student passengers in a warm, welcoming way. This would improve work quality and push drivers to perform better, which is important when raising standards in school bus driving.

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