Transportation & Logistics

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Could High School Bus Driver Shortage Trickle Down to Youth Sports?

14 Nov, 2018

By: Michael Popke

From Massachusetts to Minnesota, school districts are struggling to find enough bus drivers to provide transportation to and from athletic events.

In October, Framingham (Mass.) High School’s golf and swim and dive teams had to find their own way to practices and competitions, and the school was forced to cancel at least one junior varsity football game. The district signed a $29 million, five-year contract with Durham School Services in 2016 to provide 75 buses for 6,000 students. A driver shortage is forcing students to arrive at school late and often not have rides for extracurricular activities.

“There is a shortage of bus drivers nationwide, and we are feeling it here locally,” Lincoln Lynch IV, the executive director of finance and operations for Framingham Public Schools, recently told the Framingham Source. “Durham has made an effort to pull drivers from other districts, but there is not enough drivers to go around.”

“Recently, we have experienced an increase in drivers calling in sick or not showing for work, which has caused route delays,” Durham School Service media spokesperson Virginia Aparicio told the paper. “We have been committed to maintaining 110 percent driver staffing to ensure we are covering every route each day. However, we are now recruiting for 115 percent staffing to make sure service is maintained when drivers become ill or aren’t able to make it to work. We are working with the City to improve proactive communication regarding route delays and potential cancellations. Additionally, we are currently training four more spare drivers to provide coverage during these instances, as well as receiving assistance from drivers at neighboring Durham operations.”

Meanwhile, a driver shortage in Billings, Mont., led to the cancellation of several junior varsity sporting events in September, the superintendent of Crookston (Minn.) School District sometimes drives a bus when there aren’t enough official drivers, and many districts in the Upper Valley region along the New Hampshire/Vermont border report consolidating routes, rescheduling games and meets, and hiring a private bus company to transport students to events.

School district officials in various communities say the driver shortages are the result of robust local economies, and they say recruiting drivers has become a year-round priority.

“You can’t just hang out a sign in August and expect people to come through the door,” Karen DeVet, chief operating officer of Minneapolis Public Schools, told Minnesota Public Radio. “You really gotta be pounding the pavement year-round looking for people that are qualified to drive.”

In Providence, R.I., school bus drivers went on strike in September, disputingretirement benefits, and left more than 9,000 students without transportation. High school teams were forced to cancel events and find ways to get student-athletes where they needed to be.

“If we have home-and away contests we’re flipping one and if we don’t we’re asking schools to give up a home game and we’ll repay you next year,” one high school athletic director told the Providence Journal.

Officials in the School District of Wisconsin Dells (Wis.) is attempting to find a positive solution to the driver shortage in its community: offering a signing bonus for drivers to encourage more people to apply for a position.

“We’ve put it out on social media, ads in the paper, ads in the shopper-stoppers,” Fred Steinhorst, the district’s transportation supervisor, told Wisconsin Dells Events.

According to the newspaper, the school board also is obtaining “estimates of cost to purchase vans that coaches could use to transport students for sporting events. Golf team coaches currently use a van to transport students to sporting events, rather than a bus.”

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