Several Minnesota schools report bus driver shortages

With Labor Day right around the corner, there will be no shortage of students heading back to school, but in at least one school district, there may be not be enough drivers to get them there.

The Osseo School District serves Osseo, Maple Grove and parts of several surrounding communities.
But this year, it is facing an unprecedented shortage of school bus drivers.

"I have been in school transportation for about 15 years, and this is one of the worst shortages I have been through," said Jenifer Doyle with First Student.

First Student said it is still looking to hire about 30 school bus drivers for the Osseo school district and about 150 bus drivers across the state about a week before the start of the school year.

Officials said there's a nationwide shortage of commercial drivers including school bus drivers, but it’s heightened here in Minnesota because of the low unemployment rate and higher standards for background checks. They also said permitting and licensing can scare potential bus drivers away.

"People forget it’s an excellent part-time job. It has great benefits, but it can be a struggle for a split-shift position. We pick up kids in the morning and the afternoon, but other than that you can do what you want."

The district sent a letter warning parents that the shortage could cause delays and that more students will be picked up from centralized bus stops to make routes more efficient.

First Student said it will also bring in drivers from other communities to help out, but it could take a while for them to get up to speed.

"Parents should know there will be a bus for every route. There will be a driver for every bus. There could be some delays because some of those drivers could be coming from other locations who aren't 100 percent familiar with the area, so be extra patient for us as we get through this start up times," Doyle said.

To attract more applicants, First Student is offering a $3,000 signing bonus for new drivers and a $5,000 signing bonus for experienced bus drivers.

It’s not just Osseo experiencing the shortage; Minneapolis Public Schools said it’s looking for 25 bus drivers for its district, as well.