Nearly two-thirds of Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation (OAPT) members think low pay is the leading cause of the school bus driver shortage there, according to survey results released this week.
Between Sept. 13 and Oct. 11, OAPT received a total of 611 responses from 338 districts to the survey that sought to understand the struggles experienced since the outbreak of COVID-19 and how driver shortages have worsened. Three main areas for districts to improve in became apparent.
Sixty-three percent said pay is the leading factor in driver candidate’s decision not to proceed with being hired. Additionally, nearly 52 percent said lack of hours is a factor, followed by benefits (45 percent), and split shifts (over 34 percent).
“People don’t want to work part-time,” commented David Oglesby, OAPT’s second vice president. “People are needing to support their families and benefits is a huge factor for those applying.”
Meanwhile, only slightly more than 8 percent of the members said wages paid out over a full year in equal increments every other week, or 26 paychecks, negatively impacts hiring.
Related: Concerns with the Recent Spike of COVID-19 Cases to Have a Major Impact on the School Transportation Industry After the Holidays
Related: Bus Driver Shortage Extended Iowa School District Holiday
Related: 5 Ways to to Alleviate Your Bus Driver Shortage (And Save Money, Too)
Related: New Pegasus Bus Manufacturer Opens Ohio Plant
COVID-19 has also worsened the shortages, as districts are struggling to provide proper transportation. Todd Silverthorn, OAPT’s first vice president, told School Transportation News that he finds it alarming to see that the survey indicates over 24 percent of the districts are reporting that they have had to cancel routes once a week every day.
“They are out of options,” he noted. “Unfortunately, my district has experienced route cancellations a couple of times a week at the beginning of the school year. Last year, we were canceling or delaying routes almost daily due to staffing shortage.”
The silver lining, he added, is that three-quarters of districts had yet to cancel routes.
But OAPT President Theresa Ritchie noted that student transportation operations as a whole do not have the options afforded to school buildings to move and shift staff around to cover routes. “We have a limited amount of certified staff to drive school buses, and when those resources have been exhausted, we are sometimes faced with the difficult decision to delay, cancel or run routes late to school,” she added.
Oglesby added, “We hate the idea of sending calls at 6 a.m. to notify parents that we do not have a driver to drive their route. This can place parents scrambling to get their children to school.”
The survey indicated that districts are able to schedule interviews, but some candidates fail to show up. Oglesby also said many districts in Ohio have not paid for driver training for years. Now with COVID-19 increasing shortages, the survey shows that over 62 of districts are now offering to pay CDL training.
“This survey speaks volumes,” stated Silverthorn.
OAPT anticipates having further conversations with the remaining districts throughout the state.