What's the impact of the bus driver shortage?

Niagara Falls Coachlines only has half the drivers they need right now
Posted at 8:31 AM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 05:52:36-04

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — School officials in Niagara Falls City School District Offices, where they’re working to make sure they have everything they need to bring kids back in a few weeks.

They’ve got supplies, they’re working on their plans, but what they really need is workers.

"It is a concern, we can't start school if we can't transport children," said Superintendent Mark Laurrie.

The district works with a company called Niagara Falls Coachlines, the company’s president Michael Dowd tells me they only have half of the drivers they need to start the school year.

He says this bus driver shortage has been going on for the past few years—but it’s only gotten worse. So they’ve been negotiating pay rates—raising up to $20/hour and there’s room to grow from there.

There are four main reasons they’re having trouble getting bus drivers and other school workers:

  1. Pay rates:
    1. Laurrie says they’re competing with fast food restaurants and delivery services like Amazon
    2. Right now, their rates for school positions hover around $15/hour
  2. Schedules:
    1. Laurrie says people have issues starting their days early, having the middle of their day empty and then going back to work in the afternoon.
  3. Unemployment
  4. Safety

So we asked Laurrie, is it safe to work in schools?

“I believe it is, but I don’t discount that perception. Working in the school system is a great place to be, the conditions are good, so if you have any inkling to do that, we want you," said Laurrie.

Dowd says they make the application process easy, with free training on site. If they don’t get these drivers, there will be a huge negative impact.

School districts around the nation are experiencing bus driver shortages
School districts around the nation are experiencing bus driver shortages

“And that of course is overcrowded buses, more stops, more delays for students, a really big impacts is it frustrates administrators and more importantly parents, kids are arriving late, they’re concerned about them," said Dowd.

Dowd says this also frustrates current drivers these drivers have to take longer routes and make more stops and if they are late, parents sometimes get upset and take it out on them.

Laurrie says the district is getting creative to make things work, working on pay rates, offering free fingerprinting and working with the drivers they have to make busing as efficient as possible.

There are opportunities for people to learn more about these jobs, the district is holding job fairs—on August 18 at Abate Elementary from 1-3pm. As well as August 24-26.

You can also stop by or call Niagara Falls Coachlines (716) 285-9357.