School bus companies still scrambling to find drivers ahead of new year

As Back to School swings into full gear, school bus companies are still searching for drivers.

Just like last year, there still aren't enough drivers for a school year with more routes, and as more districts return to pre-pandemic operations, the pinch is getting worse.

"The need for school bus drivers has never been greater," said Jenifer Doyle with bus company First Student.

The incentives are greater than ever before with the pay the highest it’s been. Yet, school bus companies say they still can’t find enough people wanting the job.

"This has been a struggle ever since coming out of the pandemic, and that’s true for all industries, but the shortage just seems to be growing and growing and growing," said Doyle.

First Student contracts with 18 school districts operating 1,200 routes and, two weeks out from the start of school, they still have 200 openings across the state.

"I guess I had thought that maybe the increased gas prices, people are looking for a little more income, and I guess that just hasn’t been the case yet," said Shelly Jonas with the Minnesota School Bus Operators Association.

Jonas says last year’s driver shortage was just the warm-up act to this year -- and they aren’t getting much help from regulators.

"Nothing has been done," said Jonas. "In fact, I would say if anything the feds have made it more difficult."

All while current drivers assure it isn’t as intimidating as many might think.

"Its very rewarding," said bus driver Gail Weber. "I love it."