Released just a few short months ago, our annual survey of school transportation and administration professionals revealed many things about the current state of school transportation. The results of the survey — published in our 2022 State of School Transportation Report — provide timely data and insights about top-of-mind school transportation issues and concerns.
The report also, however, highlights numerous things that survey respondents reported are going well in their school transportation operations today — a few of which are explored below.
School Staff and Communities Are Dedicated to Helping Students
Feedback and comments gathered by our State of School Transportation 2022 survey made it clear that school employees, contractors and communities are deeply committed to student success.
One anonymous survey respondent shared: “The bus driver shortage has really shown us the team spirit that we have within our school district and community. Not only did we have the athletic director and superintendent volunteering daily, we also had community members stepping up to get their license to help out.”
Supervisor of Transportation Taylor Perrington Ashley recognized the hard work of the bus drivers in her district. “I have some really great drivers who have stepped up to the plate to help out. They have doubled up on runs, covered other routes last minute and have been incredibly patient with changes on the fly.”
The important role of contractors in her district was mentioned by Angela Marshall, a transportation director. “I have a group of contractors who work their tails off for the sake of the kids,” she said.
Transportation Director Trudy Foster also mentioned the contracted drivers in her district, who stand ready to help out at a moment’s notice. “As drivers retire or separate, we always have contracted drivers without assigned routes who can move to that position,” she said. “In our district, the drivers go above and beyond to make sure all runs are covered, and they always offer to help.”
Districts, Schools and Staff Are Resourceful and Resilient
Numerous respondents to our 2022 survey emphasized that in spite of facing ongoing COVID-19 concerns, budget cuts, bus driver shortages and other school transportation pain points, districts and schools are still successfully getting students to and from school.
The credit for this goes in large measure to the resolve, creativity and teamwork of transportation professionals and school administrators.
Transportation Coordinator Dodi Young agreed that the job is still getting done despite the challenges. “We’ve had a solid percentage of on-time routes, even with shortages,” she reported of her district.
Positive news was also shared with this response from an anonymous survey taker: “Our route planning and overall operational organization has been working well.”
New Approaches Are Being Used — And Are Working
Schools and districts have been trying out new solutions to offset some of the many challenges they are facing, including those specifically related to bus driver shortages.
One anonymous survey respondent mentioned that efforts to get bus drivers trained more quickly have had a positive impact. “We are blessed with an incredible Driver Trainer who is getting drivers trained as quickly as possible.” Director of Transportation Gregory Dutton’s district is trying a different approach to speeding up the driver hiring process. “We’re now hiring bus drivers without CDLs, and allowing them up to 90 days to complete the training,” he said.
Increasingly, schools are also choosing alternative transportation solutions. More than half of the respondents to our 2022 survey disclosed that alternative transportation solutions have become a viable and dependable option for their school districts.
Incentivizing drivers financially is another tactic that has gained traction. “We raised our hourly pay, and we are willing to train any new hires who would like to get their CDL,” explained one CDL coordinator. “I give them their CDL written tests, we train them behind the wheel and I give them their driving exam. It costs us $1,500 to $2,000 per driver to help them get their license.”
Here at HopSkipDrive, we join the respondents to our 2022 State of School Transportation survey in applauding bus drivers, school staff, teachers and everyone else who works hard every day to make sure students have safe, reliable transportation to and from school.