Amazon is poaching school bus drivers for delivery jobs amid a shortage

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Schools are competing with Amazon amid the bus driver shortage. Tom Williams/Getty Images
  • The national bus-driver shortage continues to disrupt learning despite extra financial incentives.
  • New Jersey, Florida, and Pennsylvania schools said they are competing with Amazon for drivers.
  • Amazon is hiring 4,800 workers in Philadelphia – school leaders worry it could worsen hiring challenges.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

School districts in New Jersey, Florida, and Pennsylvania have cited hiring competition with Amazon as one factor fueling a national bus-driver shortage that has forced kids to taxi, Uber, and even kayak to class.

Chloe Williams, president of the New Jersey School Bus Contractors Association, told Insider that the driver shortage is not due to “wages at this point,” adding that they lost bus drivers to Amazon, ride-hailing services, and long-haul trucking companies.

She said several bus drivers left last year due to health concerns but most returned after the vaccine became available.

“Primarily, it was because the jobs were available last year when the schools shut down,” Williams said. “People were looking for other jobs and found the demand was there … especially in package delivery, everybody was home shopping on Amazon.”

Public schools across New Jersey have raised wages for bus drivers to as high as $US30 ($AU41) an hour, according to NJ.com. Private bus contractors in the state are offering bonuses ranging from $US1500 ($AU2,072) to $US5000 ($AU6,906), the report says.

In Palm Beach, Florida, schools are competing with a new 96,000-square-foot Amazon warehouse to hire drivers, The Hustle’s Zachary Crockett reported Saturday.

The hourly wage for Amazon drivers in Palm Beach is approximately $US2 ($AU3) higher than the district’s bus driver salary of $US14.57 ($AU20) an hour, according to The Hustle report.

Amazon recently announced plans to hire 4,800 workers in Philadelphia, a city hard-hit by the school bus driver shortage, The Inquirer reported.

The e-commerce giant’s growth could make it even more difficult to hire bus drivers, Philadelphia superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said at a press conference earlier this month.

District spokeswoman Christina Clark told Insider that Amazon offered logistics advice around making bus routes more efficient. “They, too, are in the process of dealing with driver vacancies, so filling driver shortages is not something we are looking for them to help us with at this time,” she said.

“Our most critical needs are for teachers, bus drivers, special education assistants, food service workers, and student climate staff,” Hite said at a Facebook Live briefing last week.

He added that the district is introducing a new bus driver trainee position which will “provide potential bus drivers with compensation and benefits while they take their CDL course and complete all necessary exams.”

One Amazon delivery service partner (DSP) employee in Connecticut told Insider a former driver used to say “packages are much better than kids,” when asked about his past experience as a school bus driver and why he left.

Amazon recruiting tactics are hard to compete with. One driver operating out of a Danbury, Connecticut warehouse told Insider he was instructed to distribute business cards advertising Amazon delivery driving jobs to “drivers, landscapers, anyone we see on the road.”

He said if an applicant is hired as a result, the driver is rewarded with a $US300 ($AU414) bonus, adding that the hiring push is in preparation for Amazon’s peak holiday season.

Amazon did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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