ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Students are back to school in full swing, and districts across the state are facing a similar problem. Trying to staff their transportation departments, amid the growing shortage of school bus drivers across the nation. Research conducted at the University at Albany (UAlbany) has found what researchers believe to be improved strategies for school districts to retain bus drivers.

Brian Carey, a recent doctoral graduate of UAlbany’s Department of Educational Policy & Leadership who works for Schodack Central School District, and Susan Phillips, a professor of educational policy and leadership and counseling psychology at UAlbany, surveyed 300 bus drivers from different school districts across upstate New York. According to the survey, drivers who planned to stay behind the wheel found a sense of personal significance and felt they were making a difference in the lives of the students they transport, considering themselves a significant part of those students’ education, rather than highlighting payment or benefits.

“These views did not seem to arise from an abstract motivation to work in a public service capacity, but rather reflected the drivers’ view that their jobs are meaningful work,” Carey and Phillips said. “Of note also was that drivers did not seem entirely convinced that their districts value them for the work they do.”

Many drivers also noted that they would stay in the position a long time if “the job got greater respect from school administration.” Carey and Phillips offered several suggestions for districts looking to keep their drivers.

Suggested Findings:

  • Implement formalized recognition programs that would allow drivers an opportunity to feel more connected to the mission of the district and the students they transport.
  • Spotlight drivers in opening day ceremonies and on district webpages.
  • Allow drivers to take a larger role in the district via job sharing or paid roles, such as teaching assistants, monitors, or aides. In addition to increasing pay opportunities, this could foster greater feelings of connection with students.
  • Include drivers in teams that deal with student behavior, which again would highlight the importance of their role to the overall system.
  • Talk to drivers about why they do what they do, and how their work fits into the overall mission of the district.