Bus companies are struggling to fill the shortage of school bus drivers before the start of the new semester.
Anyone who has considered driving a school bus in the past may want to consider applying. Wages have increased between 20% and 25% over the last five years. Salaries range from $25 to $30 an hour depending on where you are located in New Jersey.
“I love what I do, and I want to share it with others,” says driver Julie Holzer.
Holzer drives with Villani Bus. She and her boss, Courtney Villani, were discussing the shortage of bus drivers across the country.
“We had a nationwide driver shortage before COVID, and it’s still lingering,” says Villani.
The pandemic was a big reason for the prolonged shortage. It’s a job that retirees rely on at a time when people were choosing not to work. Salaries in the past have not always been competitive. And not everyone likes split schedules.
Villani is also a member of the New Jersey School Bus Contractors Association, which is currently running a recruitment campaign. They’re trying to lure the driver not just with wage increases, but with health insurance and his 401(k) plan.
Some companies may run out of drivers in September. The South Jersey bus company told News 12 that the new driver will make up 25% of his staff in the fall. These new drivers will also need more training.
Villani says her staff will be solid, but she says the company is always looking for new drivers.
“There is always an interest in hiring new drivers, securing top talent and training them,” she says.
She says it’s a great job not only because of the benefits, but also because it allows her to be an influential role model for school children.
“We tell everyone, ‘Come in and be an influencer,'” Villani says.
There are requirements to become a bus driver. Applicants must have a commercial driver’s license and pass drug and physical examinations every two years. A driver over the age of 70 must pass that medical examination once a year.