Schools Desperately Short of Bus Drivers; Carpooling App Needed

by James C. Sherlock

A Fairfax County Public Schools Twitter message August 19:

“If you can walk with or drive your child (and perhaps a neighbor’s), please do. Also, we ask that you update your transportation status through your school, if you choose to not have your child take the bus.”

WTOP reported that as of Aug. 12, Fairfax County Public Schools was short 190 drivers.

Parents have already made plans and notified school districts if their children will be bus riders. I expect that the interlocking administration and logistics of car pools and buses to T-bone one another because of the late start and lack of preparation for the car pool option at scale. But that is where many districts are.

Driving a school bus is a difficult, nerve wracking and hazardous job. The training required makes them professional drivers. The demand for such skills and the pay and benefits in the private sector are very high and growing because of a labor shortage in the face of increasing demand.

Like pretty much every other type of blue collar work.

UPS, FedEx and Amazon have added tens of thousands of drivers. Entry-level FedEx package delivery drivers make about $24/hour to start plus benefits in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties.

Long-haul truck drivers of course make much more. Walmart driver’s earn in excess of $88,000 on average during the first year.

Both local and long haul commercial sector driving are full time, full year jobs. School bus driving is usually not 40 hours per week or full year work.

Loudoun County Public Schools, the highest paying school district for bus drivers, offers $22 per hour, no experience necessary, paid training, a $2,500 sign on bonus, a $1,000 referral bonus (for current county employees) plus full benefits.

Those inducements have not filled all of the school bus driver jobs in Loudoun County. And Loudoun can afford to pay them. Consider less gilded school districts.

That is before existing drivers, exasperated trying to make up for the shortage, quit at higher rates than normal.

The only available option for many districts will be to reduce demand — the number of bus riders — to meet the shrunken supply of drivers. Suburban school districts appear to be at the center of the storm.

Thankfully, there are commercial carpooling apps that can potentially offer support to K-12 schools.

A survey of selected school systems. Fairfax County is one of the nation’s largest and wealthiest public school districts, with 188,000 pupils that attend 198 schools and centers.Bus driver starting pay $19.58/hour with signing bonus up to $2000 and an employee referral bonus of $500.

    • Paid training
    • 6 paid holidays
    • Health insurance, life insurance, paid sick leave, retirement plan
    • A guaranteed minimum of 30 hours/week
    • Full-time benefits for part-time work

I will quote Fairfax County Public Schools. FCPS has both an app and website support for predicting delays, but nothing for carpooling.

FCPS, along with surrounding school divisions, is experiencing severe bus driver shortages due to a national and regional driver shortage. Please be assured, we are working hard to recruit and retain qualified bus drivers and to plan transportation that will be as efficient as possible with our current roster of drivers.

What will this mean for you and your family? FCPS will need to increase “double back” bus runs, meaning a bus is required to run two scheduled routes back to back that would normally have been covered by two separate buses. These “double backs” may impact delivery time to schools or bus stops and may have a domino effect throughout the day, affecting after-school drop-off times.

We ask families and students to have patience and flexibility at the start of the school year while we work through the issue. You can be prepared by checking the Here Comes the Bus (HCtB) app or FCPS School Bus Delays website for potential delays. Route information and transportation intent for your child is always available and current in your SIS ParentVue account.

A sampling of others:

  • Wise County, at the other end of the state, is not advertising for contract or non-contract bus drivers at this time. Seems the schools have enough for their 71 buses that transport 3,000 kids per day.
  • Albemarle County — “Always need bus drivers”– $15.42 to $18.51 hourly. Then there are the vacancies for mechanics and special needs car drivers in the Transportation department.
  • Grayson County — only advertising for substitute bus drivers.
  • Southhampton County — offering the Edulog Parent Portal Lite app. This app will assist parents with the visibility, timing, and location of their child’s bus in real-time. Southhampton needs a bus mechanic, school bus drivers and school bus aides.
  • Henrico County — Transports more than 28,000 students each day in 627 school buses to 46 elementary, 12 middle and 9 high schools. See the bus driver recruitment video; $14.91 an hour with benefits such as health care, sick leave and VRS retirement plan.  Substitutes $13.91.
  • Richmond $16.58 hourly. $500 sign-on bonus. I was disappointed but not surprised by the significant shortages of classroom teachers, reading and math interventionists, instructional assistants, and everyone else needed in the academic program in RPS this late in the game.


In many districts Virginians will need carpooling to and from K-12 schools at an entirely new scale.

There are several commercial carpooling apps that are worth investigating. I recommend the Virginia Department of Education task a tech consulting company that is already available under a state or federal task order contract  for the government to:

  • write an RFP;
  • judge the competition; and
  • award either a single or multiple award task order contracts available to the school districts.

That of course won’t be completed by the start of school, but can probably be done in a few months under emergency contracting waivers if needed.

This won’t be the last semester or year that such solutions will be in high demand.

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21 responses to “Schools Desperately Short of Bus Drivers; Carpooling App Needed”

  1. vicnicholls Avatar

    We had a (D) person running for statewide office, who never shows up to any local anything unless its gun control, say money isn’t the issue, its that we don’t have mask mandates (and I’m sure vaccine mandates).

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    So, Fairfax County Public Schools had the time, money and interest in paying $20,000 to Kendi for an hour of anti=racism spew but lacked the time, money and interest to make sure they had enough bus drivers?

    These people are idiots.

    Too dumb to run anything, especially the schools.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Good job Captain. You are right about the school bus driver moving up to bigger leagues and bigger pay. School bus drivers all ready have the approved driver school training. One trip to DMV for the Class A Road test and paper test and you are there. It is not that high of a bar. Pee test might be the only real barrier. Trucking companies are wise to pick up on seasoned and safe driving school bus veterans.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      I get your points but why is this coming to the fore now? It seemed like there were plenty of bus drivers during the 2018 – 2019 school year, before COVID. Why the sudden departure of school bus drivers for trucking companies?

      Is it possible that the school bus drivers are still collecting enhanced unemployment benefits that make returning to work an economically challenged decision?

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        The draw of unemployment checks is possible for some of them, but COVID hugely spiked the need for commercial drivers.

        Many bus drivers were unemployed or underemployed and joined the common carriers for huge pay raises and better benefits over what they were used to. The local delivery services, in addition to better pay and benefits, offer full time work, regular hours and far better working conditions than do school bus jobs.

        I think parents will want to lean hard into car pooling. That is why I suggested coordinated efforts by the school districts through VDOE to offer carpooling applications behind the school parents’ login walls on the district or individual schools websites.

  4. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Aside comment: This is one of those factors/costs that are typically ignored by fiscal conservatives in the small school/large school debate.

    1. Matt Adams Avatar
      Matt Adams

      “Eric the half a troll • 23 minutes ago
      Aside comment: This is one of those factors/costs that are typically ignored by fiscal conservatives in the small school/large school debate.”

      No, this is what is known as a red herring. It’s also not something that you can prove, but that’s your SOP.

      However, I surmise that like always when you’re confronted with the facts you’ll down-vote and run like the coward you are.

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      I have no idea why you believe fiscal conservatives favor large schools over small schools.

      On this blog Jim Bacon (a fiscal conservative) has written extensively about the excellent results of small public schools in Virginia like those in Poquoson.

      I’ve written a lot about why areas in Fairfax County should form relatively small cities, leave the county school system and establish small neighborhood schools in walkable communities.

      Right now the Fairfax County School Board (hardly known for conservatism of any kind) is expanding Justice, Madison and West Potomac High Schools. In other words, they are making big schools bigger not building small schools.

  5. Matt Adams Avatar
    Matt Adams

    Different school districts made different assumptions regarding this year. One based their routes on the notion that parents would providing transport and requested parents notify them otherwise. Others made the assumption that all students are riding the bus and planned their routes accordingly. The latter is resulting in children still be at the school around 6 PM.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Maybe true but ….

      Fairfax County Public Schools started classes today.

      “WTOP reported that as of Aug. 12, Fairfax County Public Schools was short 190 drivers.”

      At least Fairfax County knew they were going to be short before the school year started.

      1. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        Spotsylvania was for former district I was speaking of and Stafford was the latter.

  6. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    Why not train people people in jail on drug/ theft/ prostitution charges to drive school buses? I mean BIPOCs were almost all unjustly convicted according to BLM. This would be a great way to provide some Equity.

  7. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    I thought the discussion was going to get into the COVID relief payments causing less need to work. But COVID impacts are substantial. People have moved, got sick, changed priorities, have different family situations at home, and now we have vaccine mandate I presume bus drivers cannot be vaccine hesitant. It would be interesting to understand if the shortage is loss of drivers, or inability to recruit the same numbers as in the past. But I think they probably need to increase the incentives.

  8. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I have to smile and shake my head when I see stories like this. Back in the olden days, when I was in high school, many of the school bus drivers in the county were high school students. They had a good safety record. Of course, unlike today’s suburban kids, most of these guys had grown up on the farm, or at least in the country, driving trucks, tractors, and heavy equipment before they were old enough to get their drivers’ licenses.

    Here is a picture of the 1966 Halifax County High School Bus Drivers’ Club:

    1. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
      Baconator with extra cheese

      Did they end the program due to a lack of Diversity? That picture appears to be all cis male Wypipo…. No good NOVA SJW would allow little Karen to get on a bus with anyone looking like that.
      But we could probably start a Drag Queen bus driving story time program.

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Great story. I would have been in that club. I loved my bus driver Mrs. Flynn. 4th grade to graduation day. That story makes me think of this:

  9. Super Brain Avatar
    Super Brain

    Some days I walked 3.25 miles to GWHS in Danville. Sometimes I walked after football practice. No carbon footprint at all. I pocketed the fare my parents gave me to increase my allowance.
    Danville was a hot bed of the Byrd machine and did not have school buses. The local bus company ran school routes at reduced fares if you purchased tickets from the school. Other wise it was full fare.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Was it up hill both ways? Just kidding. Good story.

      1. Super Brain Avatar
        Super Brain

        Hills both ways. And a railroad track that I walked over.

        1. Super Brain Avatar
          Super Brain

          My mom taught grades 1-6 in Franklin County the early 50’s. At the same time. One room school.

  10. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    A big part of the local traffic is school related, especially HS. If more people took the bus I assume that would be more sustainable and less traffic.

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