UniteGPS – This past week, the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation (OAPT) released results from a survey in which two-thirds of respondents attributed low pay as the leading cause of the driver shortage.

Respondents to the OAPT survey considered wages to be the biggest issue in driving buses

OAPT conducted the survey between Sept. 13 and Oct. 11, 2021, seeking to better gauge how rising COVID-19 cases have escalated the scarcity of qualified bus drivers. 

Upon receiving 611 responses from 338 school districts in Ohio, 63 percent of respondents considered salary to be the largest deterrent from candidates getting hired. 

From there, around 52 percent attributed the working hours while 45 percent blamed benefits and 34 percent split shifts.

Magnifying the shortage is the COVID-19 public health crisis, reinforced in the survey with 24 percent of the respondents canceling routes due to the lack of transportation.

“They are out of options,” said Todd Silverthorn, OAPT’s first vice president, in an interview with School Transportation News Online. 

“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.”

Some transportation officials ultimately don’t have the resources to move staff around to cover routes when push comes to shove.

“We have a limited amount of certified staff to drive school buses,” said OAPT President Theresa Ritchie. “When those resources have been exhausted, we are sometimes faced with the difficult decision to delay, cancel or run routes late to school.”

With federal Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requirements around the corner combined with COVID-19 complications, the survey also showed that over 62 school districts will pay for CDL training to help allure more applicants.