Bus driver shortage increases

There+are+2-3+bus+routes+that+are+labeled+as+no+driver+everyday+at+Athens+Drive.+This+will+continue+to+increase+until+drivers+begin+to+feel+valued+by+students+and+the+school+board.

Photos by Eb Pilgrim

There are 2-3 bus routes that are labeled as “no driver” everyday at Athens Drive. This will continue to increase until drivers begin to feel valued by students and the school board.

The shortage of bus drivers increased after students have come back to school since the pandemic. The school board offered sign-up bonuses and attendance incentives to drivers, but there is still a decrease. It has become about the challenges that come with the job and how the drivers are treated, not about the money. 

“At the end of the day it’s about them feeling valued. It goes both ways, it goes from the staff to the students too,” said Donti Coats, Assistant Principal at Athens Drive High School.

There were 1342 vacant bus driver positions as of 2022, and Wake County now has more than 200 vacant positions and 52 fewer bus routes than in 2021 according to the NCSSA. 

Some issues bus drivers face range from student issues all the way to adverse weather conditions. Fights can break out, students throw items around and do not follow safety precautions, which are just a few of the reasons bus drivers feel challenged partaking in this job. Sometimes bus drivers also have to drive in pouring rain or black ice.

“Last year I remember pencils and random things getting thrown around and people sitting down on the aisle purposely. This year that same bus rarely comes for us. I think she got fed up with everything,” said Jackson Yancey, sophomore.

67% of wake county schools show that there has been a direct connection between absences and transportation, which means students are potentially missing out on lessons, hence affecting their grade negatively. Schools are already being faced with adversities trying to make up for learning that students did not receive during the pandemic.

Due to buses not coming, some students have been paying close to $10 everyday to get an uber home. Other students have to walk, bike, ask a friend or wait until their parents get off work which can be up to a four hour long wait, affecting the amount of time students have to do homework and participate in extracurriculars. On rare occasions students get denied ubers because they are not of age yet, which is a loss of money that students may not be able to make back.

“Most of the time I have to get an uber home or ask a friend which takes money that I don’t even have. It builds up,” said Yancey.

While groups of students resent having to stay after school because of the bus driver shortage, they can still keep themselves occupied. If money is present, students can buy a ticket to go to any games that might be hosted after school. Athens drive is walking distance from Lake Johnson which has benches that you could sit down on to finish any school/homework. These few activities can help them make up any work that can be holding their grade back, which is the situation that lots of students with many absences are in.

With numbers rising in vacant bus driver positions, numbers of students without a ride are also increasing. This has left drivers without a job and feeling undervalued while simultaneously lowering students’ grades. While this is considered a bad thing, students can also benefit from this in different ways.

The shortage of bus drivers increased after students have come back to school since the pandemic. The school board offered sign-up bonuses and attendance incentives to drivers, but there is still a decrease. It has become about the challenges that come with the job and how the drivers are treated, not about the money.