In Mayers’ home state of Massachusetts, the school bus driver shortage has gotten so severe that the governor recently deployed ~250 National Guardsmen to drive kids to school. Officials in Ohio and South Carolina are planning to follow suit.
Around 60% of the nation’s 500k school buses are owned and operated directly by districts, which hire their own drivers. The other 40% are owned by private transportation companies that hire their own drivers and contract their services to schools.
When times are good, these companies rake in serious dough: In the 2019 fiscal year, First Student reported $1.85B in revenue and $173m in profit — 15x more than Greyhound.
School bus driver shortages aren’t a new phenomenon. At the beginning of most school years, districts and private bus companies often find themselves short-staffed by a few positions.
Though school districts were given $13.5B in federal aid to weather the storm, many didn’t use any of the money to pay transportation contractors.