HARRISBURG, Pa. — Back to school means students are getting back on the bus even as school districts nationwide struggle to find people to take the wheel.
Gerry Wosewick, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Bus Association, said it’s happening within the Commonwealth as well.
"Unfortunately, we’ve been victim to the school bus driver shortage also," he expressed. "Across the state, we’re short approximately 3,500 drivers."
Rural and urban school districts are faced with the most openings, but it’s a problem all over the state.
The fleet at Rohrer Bus in Duncannon is ready to go for the school year, with Rohrer Human Resources Manager Kristin McGaffin hiring drivers all summer.
"Every district is in a different spot," she said. "We have some districts that are fully staffed and even have spare drivers, which is fantastic. We still have districts that are looking for one or two drivers."
McGaffin said some full-time drivers are available to fill in the gaps, but the recruitment never stops.
Companies are offering drivers higher compensation and benefits, while officials have removed some barriers.
"By working with PennDOT, by working with Governor Shapiro’s administration, we were actually able to eliminate some of those under-the-hood requirements for the CDL," Wosewick added.
Safety is still a top priority and Wosewick said drivers still have to complete all the necessary safety training before taking their seat on the bus.
While the shortage remains an issue, there are signs of improvement.
"The further we get out from the pandemic; the more people have been willing to come out and work and do this job," McGaffin said.
Officials are optimistic that the shortage will be sorted out in time for the next school year.