Bus driver shortage creates delays

It’s 4:15 p.m., and the bus still hasn’t arrived. Students stand around as they wonder when they will make it home. This issue has become more common this school year, and the problem is not that there aren’t enough buses—it’s that there aren’t enough drivers.

On average, 1,500 students take the bus daily and the shortage of bus drivers has led to after school pick up times of 4:15 p.m. or later, while normal pick up times are closer to 3:40 p.m.

“The bus has been running very late on the route home from school—sometimes 20 plus minutes,” parent Nancy Swidler said.
For those that have appointments or practices after school, this can be very frustrating, said Steve Tucker, Dean of Students and Transportation Coordinator. Students are the ones that are mainly being impacted by this dilemma.

“I find it a little irritating to have to wait such a long time just to get onto the bus, and then have to wait even longer until you get home,” Ariella Razo ’17 said. “It cuts down time that I could be doing homework or other responsibilities.”

The shortage is mainly due to the economy, as it dictates what jobs people are or are not applying for.

“The economy drives everything,” Tucker said. “When the economy isn’t that good, people take low level or entry level jobs. Over the summer the economy started to get better, and that meant that fewer people were applying for entry level jobs such as school bus driver.”

This shortage of bus drivers is not only limited to Stevenson. Schools such as Highland Park and Glenbrook North are facing the same issue.

First Student, the bus company that Stevenson uses, has been trying to retain bus drivers by offering incentives such as paying for the training needed to become a bus driver.

First Student has also been outsourcing other bus drivers from the area to help fill the need for bus drivers in the area, Tucker said. This solution is only temporary as First Student tries to think up long lasting solutions.

“[Outsourcing] is still causing delays because First Students still have to start their buses and figure out how to get to Stevenson; [this in turn] causes mismanagement because the adults are listening to the kids,” Tucker said.

Next school year, classes will begin at 8:30 a.m. This means that the earliest bus routes next year may start at around 7:20 a.m., Tucker said.

There will automatically be a benefit, but the dilemma is putting a body in front of the steering wheel, Tucker said.