ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Every parent wants safe transportation for their child when they head to school, but New York continues to face a bus driver shortage. How bad is the bus driver shortage? Well a school board in Buffalo recently approved a transportation reimbursement program that will pay parents 63 cents for every mile they drive their child to and from school.
However, board member Larry Scott voted against the program and said their transportation provider called First Students, needs to hold up their end of the bargain, “And for me, if we’re talking about throwing more money at this problem I think we should start with First Students and them having to step up and at least own the responsibility that’s laid out in their contract to deliver,” said Scott.
David Christopher is Executive Director of New York Association for Pupil Transportation. He said the shortage has been a problem for the last ten to fifteen years and has only gotten worse since the pandemic, “Many people who are driving school buses who were in the age group where they were susceptible to getting ill with COVID more seriously than the younger people. The average age being in the mid to late fifties decided I don’t want to do this work anymore, they were able to retire or move on to another job so they did so.” Christopher said with remote work becoming more popular since the pandemic, its only led to greater competition when it comes to recruitment.
On Friday, Governor Hochul expanded eligibility for those who can distribute commercial driver license road tests. Any qualified third party can now apply for certification through the DMV. But even with the Governor’s efforts, Christopher said the shortage is not an easy fix and each district has to look at what they can do to bring in more employees, “We have to find ways to make the job attractive financially and support drivers you know providing good working conditions and support them in terms of student conduct on buses.”
Christopher says the job allows for flexibility in your schedule, the pay isn’t too bad and it’s a great way to give back to the community, “It’s a very important job, you’re the first school representative a child sees in the morning and the last at night.”