School Transportation Expected to See a Shakeup Post-Pandemic

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


Pre-pandemic, many districts were already experiencing a shortage of bus drivers. More than 80% of superintendents and transportation directors now expect that COVID-19 will exacerbate bus driver shortages, according to a survey by a school-focused rideshare company and reported by District Administration.

The survey by HopSkipDrive covered districts large and small with various percentages of students attending school, including some that have been entirely remote. Districts surveyed had varying rates of students who relied on school transportation pre-pandemic.

The survey also examined how budgets will affect transportation and made some predictions for 2021-22.

In the districts surveyed, smaller school systems tended to re-open sooner than did larger districts, which, of course, require more bus drivers, bus routes and extensive planning. Leaders in smaller districts were also more likely to say they could resume normal school operations more quickly.

The survey’s key transportations findings include:

  • Just 17% of respondents called the bus driver shortage a non-issue.
  • Bus driver shortages are the main reason some districts said it will take up to three months to resume normal operations. Hybrid learning schedules, a lack of substitute bus drivers and adjusted bell times also may affect operations.
  • The majority of respondents said general education services will remain the same as pre-pandemic. More than 60% of respondents expect that general education services will neither increase nor decrease in the 2021-22 school year.
  • The four biggest pain points for school transportation staff were COVID-related issues, staffing, funding constraints and school bus use.
  • Purchasing in 2021-22 may be delayed by budget constraints, but hiring won’t: 40% of respondents said they will postpone purchases of new vehicles, but only about 5% expect to delay hiring.

Leaders in just less than half the districts surveyed said they had gone ahead with planned fleet purchases during the 2020-21 school year. 

As for 2021-22, less than 15% expect their buses to run at full capacity, though just over 45% anticipate using the same number of buses. Some 30% of the respondents said buses will run at 50 to 75% capacity in 2021-22.