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'It's a great job': Mass. towns recruiting bus drivers amid national shortage

Mass. towns recruiting bus drivers amid national shortage
Mass. towns recruiting bus drivers amid national shortage 02:09

FRAMINGHAM - Every summer, Massachusetts schools work to recruit bus drivers so there is enough staff to drive kids when the school year starts. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, it's been an uphill battle.

"Let's face it, everybody had to put food on that table back then, so they would go and you know, a lot of bus drivers left, took jobs elsewhere, delivering packages and things like that," explained Tom Hamilton of the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts. "People were a little hesitant to come back because they didn't know about how consistent was that job going to be."

Framingham is among the schools struggling to find enough drivers ahead of the 2023-2024 school year. "We have been made aware that we will only have fifty-seven (57) bus drivers to start this coming 2023-2024 school year. In order to operate efficiently and get as many students requesting transportation on a bus to and from school in a safe and timely manner, the District needs seventy-seven (77) buses," read a letter from the administration to parents this week. "In the background, we are working as hard as we can to increase the number of buses we can use to transport our students by calling other school bus companies, coach bus companies and any other transportation company in the area that may be able to help."

Parents worry about their kids' rides. Katherine Leonard, the mother of a second grader, lives 1.9 miles from school - and anyone within two miles might not be eligible for bus transportation if the city can't hire enough drivers. "If she doesn't get the bus, we would have to figure something out because we both work full-time and so it would be hard on us," Leonard explained.

As a result, bus companies are pulling out all the stops to recruit. North Reading Transportation, which services several school districts, said in a statement to WBZ, "NRT Bus is successfully pursuing several recruitment efforts and has increased wages to hire more bus and van drivers to serve our communities, despite the ongoing national driver shortage," and mentioned that hiring rates are faster this year than they were last.

Tom Hamilton of School Transportation Association says the group recruits people who might be right for the job: stay-at-home mothers with young children who can bring them on the bus, veterans, recently retired folks, and even part time police or fire. 

"It's a good job," Hamilton said. "It's a great job. I have a couple of friends of my own who retired recently, and they got their license to be a school bus driver, and they love to golf, so what they do is they drive students in the morning to bus to school, and then go play golf and go back, pick up the bus and go pick the students up. So, I mean, it's a great situation like that for people who are just looking for a part time job." 

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