FCPS Struggles With Overwhelming Bus Driver Shortage


FCPS School Bus Driver Advertisement (Credit: Brandon Level)

Brandon Level

On August 23rd, Fairfax County Public School officials asked parents to either drive or walk their students to and from school. This comes after school bus driver shortages in the county and around the nation have spiraled out of control. 

What fueled this shortage of drivers, you may ask? It’s not abundantly clear where the main cause of this sudden problem stems from; however, there are a few factors that could play into it. Nationwide, some drivers have quit due to mask or vaccine mandates in response to Covid-19. Other more at-risk drivers may be reluctant to drive crowded busses for prolonged periods of time. Holly Smith, FCPS Bus Driver, resigned due to “increased workload and expectations set during the pandemic.” Allegedly, Smith was told FCPS was down over 300 bus drivers short at the beginning of the school year.

A Pew Research Center survey shows that 66% of the unemployed have “seriously considered” changing their field of work since the pandemic laid off millions of workers. Among middle wage workers, taxi drivers, chauffeurs, truck drivers, driver/sales workers, and other jobs on the road lead in job losses. This could directly point to the bus driver shortage and how low pay for bus drivers is affecting school districts. 

In a CBS6 interview, former bus driver Brittney Puryear said that she “loved being a bus driver” and “loved seeing the kids”, but she decided not to get back on a bus this year. She cited the amount of money that her Richmond suburb, Chesterfield County, was paying.

The effects of this shortage will be long lasting and could have devastating impacts on students’ education into the future. Shawna Yashar, FCPS parent, said her son is late to school at least twice a week in a WUSA9 interview. She says, “It’s definitely not ideal to have to drop everything to drive him to school to hopefully get him there before he misses too much of his first period.” Parents are facing issues like these all across the county, but FCPS hopes these problems come to an end soon.

School districts around the nation have ramped up efforts to hire new drivers as the 2021-22 school year moves along. In FCPS, the county has offered a $3,000 recruitment bonus for new drivers. Along with that, the starting pay for drivers around the board was increased to $22.91 per hour. For veteran drivers, a 2.5% increase in pay was approved by the county’s school board. FCPS says there was an increase in bus driver applicants due to the raise in pay.

The shortage is far reaching but principals, parents, and students can only hope that changes like these help heal the problem going into this winter.