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How the driver shortage is extending beyond trucking

11/19/2021

Schools are also feeling the ramifications of the truck driver shortage.

When a supply chain falters — whether due to a lack of raw materials, inadequate staffing, poor management or virtually any other complication — it doesn't occur in a vacuum; there is a ripple effect. In short, if one industry's processes, output or ongoing development hinge on the adequate supply of another, the consequences reverberate.

Such is the situation with the truck driver shortage. As the American Trucking Associations says, the shortfall in drivers has reached 80,000 — a major dilemma for the trucking industry. But the fact that fewer people are obtaining their commercial drivers license is also impacting other areas of life, both in the private and public sectors.

Schools say bus driver options are slim  
While the coronavirus affected every person, business and industry, schools were particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. Remote learning assisted with keeping students and faculty protected, yet for many, it wasn't the most conducive environment for learning and information retention.

Now that classes are back to being in person, many schools don't have enough bus drivers to get them there. According to a joint survey published by the National Association for Pupil Transportation, nearly 80% of respondents — which included transportation directors, bus drivers, mechanics and school administrators — said their school district was experiencing challenges related to bus driver retention and recruitment. So much so, at least two-thirds of respondents from all the regions said they've had to change transportation routes as a result.

"While the industry seems to struggle with driver shortages each year, this year's shortage has a different feel to it," said Ronna Weber, executive director for the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services. "Having the data to really understand it is invaluable."

School districts, boards and local governments have responded in different ways to address the shortage, from relying on parents to drop off and pick up their children to calling on the National Guard. As the Associated Press reported, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in September said at least 250 National Guard members would be activated to serve as bus drivers where needed once they've completed the necessary training.

Snow removal drivers wanted
With cold weather starting to settle in throughout the Northeast and other snow-producing parts of the country, both municipalities and small businesses that specialize in snow removal are struggling to find drivers. As with the bus driver shortage, the scarcity isn't unique to one portion of the nation. In Detroit, many of the businesses that are at job fairs are those that hire plow truck drivers.

Derrick Coley, director of equipment division at the Department of Public Services at Wayne County, told ABC affiliate WXYZ that the department is ready to provide training to those who are ready and willing to learn.

"We know there is a worker shortage," Coley said. "For driver positions, you do need a CDL [and] we offer training for those positions as well." Massachusetts and Vermont, among several other states, are encountering similar challenges and offering to pay more to applicants as a result.

It's clear the driver shortage is not unique to trucking; it's more far-reaching, and it may continue to extend outwardly for some time to come. 

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