UniteGPS – Money talks when it comes to incentivizing prospective bus drivers to obtain new CDL credentials. Just ask the Thomas County School District in Georgia that is offering free instruction as well as a $1,000 sign-on bonus to candidates for completing the revised training demands.

As the Thomas County School District began the school year with 15% fewer drivers, COVID-19 has magnified the scarcity of bus drivers over the last two years. Paying for the training and offering the bonus is how the community aims to remedy the local shortage.

Training programs will reportedly happen monthly with the next sessions on Feb. 28 and March 4. 

School bus driver shortage in Georgia

What some people don’t realize is that the bus driver shortage started long before the pandemic. Take the Savannah-Chatham County School Public School System in Georgia that had 10 percent fewer drivers than necessary. 

Fast forward to 2022 and the numbers decreased by 30 percent over 110 fewer drivers than normal to transport 20,000 students. In turn, 5,000 students were left without rides to and from school.

As previously reported by UntieGPS, one of the primary issues to the driver shortage include COVID health concerns among the older age demographics of bus drivers. 

Other factors include the lack of full-time hours, delayed assistance due to limited hours of operation at the Department of Motor Vehicles throughout the pandemic, and ultimately, a demanding training regiment now requiring bus drivers to learn more mechanics.

In terms of waiting times, the entire certification process can last for weeks and months. What’s more, beginner bus drivers must complete a background check and physical, on top of passing the federal CDL training.

According to an ABC News report, the National School Transportation Association has begun lobbying for a new commercial driving license meant just for buses. In other words, transportation leaders aspire to make school bus CDL training its own separate entity, including less mechanical demands that only affect long-haul truckers.