Driver shortage – NJ schools change start times and merge stops


In Deptford, the primary school day has been postponed by 15 minutes and high school students are leaving 15 minutes earlier, so the public district can face a shortage of bus drivers.

“At the moment we are able to do it, but if someone gets sick or you have a problem, it really puts you behind the eight ball,” Sal Randazzo, communications coordinator for the district, told New Jersey 101.5.

The district has already increased the starting salary for new drivers, and a bonus of up to $ 1,500 is also available for drivers who work a certain number of days and stay for the entire school year.

Randazzo said the district was prepared to wait for unlicensed CDL drivers to go through the process and obtain the necessary approvals to become a school bus driver, but the district would prefer to receive applications from people who can get behind the wheel. . at once.

“Before the pandemic, it sort of went this way already,” Randazzo said. “I don’t necessarily know money is the problem. There might just be other jobs people would prefer to do.”

Districts and bus companies will find it even harder in 2021 to find qualified drivers for trips to and from schools. For some time now, industry professionals have expressed concerns about a more rigorous testing and clearance process that could drive applicants away. The coronavirus pandemic made matters worse when children were forced to learn remotely and transportation was not required for months.

According to Richard Bozza, executive director of the Association of School Administrators of New Jersey, about 7,000 licensed bus drivers are currently receiving unemployment benefits in Garden State. The association is in talks with officials in New Jersey on how to reduce the driver shortage.

“It’s definitely more difficult this year,” said Bozza. “Routes are extended, bus stops are bundled. They also cancel trips for athletics and other after-school extracurricular activities because they cannot have drivers.”

Camden Schools recently moved to pay family members $ 1,000 if they transport their children to and from school each day during the 2021-2022 school year. According to NorthJersey.com, a shortage has forced Wayne’s K-12 district to merge some of its routes and consolidate bus stops.

Gov. Phil Murphy recently rejected – for now – the idea of ​​bringing in the National Guard to ease the burden on districts, like what is being done in Massachusetts.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at [email protected]

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