What’s the Drive Behind the Bus Decline?


Zain Shamasseen

Bus drivers have been in a steep decline since COVID-19, which proves difficult for students and current drivers alike.

Zain Shamasseen, Staff Reporter

Since their popularization in the 1920s, school buses have been an integral part of the school system, with over half of all American students taking a school bus every day. At Southern Lehigh, buses are a vital part of the district’s infrastructure, providing near-daily transportation for several of our sports teams and our student body of over a thousand children. Despite the need for daily student transportation, the district is short by more than ten buses due to a lack of drivers. 

“We usually have 50 drivers that drive for Southern Lehigh, but this year we are short 13 drivers,” Mrs. Susan Knoll, Coordinator of Support Services for Southern Lehigh School District said. “It’s really hard right now because people might call out with COVID-19, or they’re in quarantine.” 

What’s more, students used to be able to sit three to a seat if needed to boost carrying capacity. As a result of COVID-19 restrictions,only two students can sit in a seat. As a result, the number of students a bus can carry has shrunk from 72 students to just 48. 

The average hourly pay for a part-time job is $12.74, according to ZipRecruiter, while the pay for the drivers is higher, at $20.00 an hour. However, this may not be enough of an incentive, as many of the older drivers are worried about exposure to COVID-19. 

Another problem could be students, since their antics can overwhelm bus drivers.

Because students spent so much time at home in the height of the pandemic, students began to develop worsened social filters, because of a lack of communication with those outside of their family and friends. 

“Honestly, I’ve noticed a lot of students seem to have no social filters,” freshman Kasey Snyder said, “so they just say or do bad things in front of authority figures.”

This suggests another possible  answer to the question of why the number of bus drivers is declining. Since having to repeatedly correct a student’s behavior can be tiring, many drivers see quitting as a way out.

“They’re very tired of the cursing, and students are not listening to their instructions,” high school principal Mrs. Beth Guarriello said. “They’re tired of having to monitor behavior.”

With the booming job market, it’s hard for workers to not be tempted by offers from other jobs. According to Indeed, there are more than 13,000 part-time jobs available in the Coopersburg area, and of those, over 2,000 have a salary 1.4 times higher than that of a bus driver employed by Brandywine Transportation, contracted by Southern Lehigh School District. So yes, there are several part-time jobs in the local area that an unhappy driver can attain. What’s more, there are jobs with higher pay.

“This is probably another thing that’s impactful too,” Mrs. Guarriello said. “There are so many jobs right now.”

So, what is the real drive behind the bus decline? Is it the pandemic, the job market, or students? Though the cause for decline among drivers can be attributed to all three reasons, the biggest component is COVID-19.