Severe bus driver shortage persists as school year about to kick off

Incentives being offered to recruit school bus drivers 

A shortage of school bus drivers persists across the nation, amid labor shortages and hiring challenges facing multiple industries. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of school bus drivers across the country has been dropping as many retired or seek higher wages in jobs that require less in-person interaction.  

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) still has 400 vacant bus driver positions four days before the school year is scheduled to start, according to a spokesperson for the school district. 

CPS has been working with vendors to increase CDL drivers' hourly wages to a minimum of $20 an hour as a way to attract and retain drivers, the spokesperson added. 


School Buses

Bus driver shortage continues as the school year is about to start, worrying parents who don't know whether their child will have transportation. (iStock)

Cities are also offering incentives. FOX Business’ Madison Alworth reported that in Illinois, some companies who have raised wages for bus drivers have seen success as a result. 

"A lot of them are sitting at home," Julius Ceasar, the director of recruiting for Cook Illinois Corporation, noting during an interview that aired on "Varney & Co." on Thursday. 

He added that when those drivers sitting on the sidelines learn of the bump in pay, "they come into work so we’ve seen an uptick in people coming in over the last two or three months." 

Alworth reported that even so, Cook Illinois Corporation is still short about 15% of their drivers.

Last fall, about 2,100 CPS students were reportedly not picked up on the first day of school due to the bus driver shortage, leaving many Chicago parents worried that they would experience the same situation this year. 

Alworth noted that she has spoken with concerned parents who have children in the school district with special needs and that by law, transportation is required for those students and every effort should be made to limit the child's travel time to not more than one hour each way to and from the special education facility. 

"It will take them two hours to get to school and then two hours to get home so right now, we can’t do that," Christine Palmieri a Chicago parent said. 

"We are not really sure what to do, Chicago public schools, their transportation line, trying to get a hold of anyone, you can sit on the line for hours just waiting to get through," she added. 

In a statement sent to FOX Business a spokesperson said, "Chicago Public Schools (CPS) remains committed to providing transportation to all eligible students amid a national driver shortage." 

"The District and its Board of Education has prioritized Diverse Learners and Students in Temporary Living Situations as it creates routes for eligible students. The District is communicating with families through email, phone calls, and postcards to share specific transportation details before the new school year begins on Monday, August 22," the statement continued. 

The spokesperson said that students with special needs are eligible for $500 in a monthly financial incentive if they cannot get transportation and would like an alternative to district-run transportation and that if they still cannot get to school due to transportation issues, they will be granted an excused absence until then can. 

In general, the number of job openings across the country declined more than expected in June, according to the latest data from the Labor Department.

Earlier this month it was revealed that there were 10.698 million positions available for the month, a slight dip from an upwardly revised 11.303 million in May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Tuesday.


The latest check on hiring is also down from a record 11.855 million reached in March.

The data, while improving, still reflects a historically tight labor market creating challenges for companies hiring and retaining workers. The number of jobs that still need to be filled, about 6 million, exceeds the number of people looking for work.