The bus driver shortage is so bad that 250 National Guard members were activated to drive students to class in Massachusetts

National Guard
Members of the Kentucky National Guard. Gary Williams/Getty Images
  • The governor of Massachusetts activated the national guard on Monday to drive school buses.
  • 250 guard members will help with school transportation amid chaotic bus driver shortages.
  • The shortage has forced districts to delay start dates, offer daily bonuses, and pay parents $US1000 ($AU1,357) stipends.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker activated the National Guard on Monday to drive school buses as the driver shortage continues to force school delays and interruptions around the country.

Baker’s order enlists 250 guard members to drive school transport vans, with 90 starting training on Tuesday.

“We asked a bunch of communities if they’d be interested in having Guard people drive vehicles for them, especially the smaller buses,” Baker said in a briefing on Monday. “A bunch of communities said if you can figure out the legal issues and the paperwork and all the rest, that would be great.”

According to the briefing, the local driver shortage persisted in part due to an increased demand for applicants with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs), a permit held by many national guard members.

“We’ve had conversations with colleagues in municipal governments about the issue with drivers, but nobody was really sure where it was going to land,” Baker said. “Once it became clear that there were going to be communities that were shorthanded, wasn’t going to be a vehicle issue, but an issue with CDLs, we started talking to the Guard.”

School districts around the country have offered bonuses and raised wages in order to recruit and retain bus drivers amid the shortage.

While the incentives helped in some areas, several schools have been forced to push back the first day of class or start virtually due to shortages and mass resignations.

Pittsburgh Public Schools delayed school openings by two weeks due to transportation issues caused by the shortage. The announcement caused protests by both parents and students, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

The Rochester City School District in New York planned to start high school remotely while it attempted to hire 78 bus drivers with more drivers resigning each day.

After a tearful emergency board meeting, the district stepped back on the plan and allowed students to start class in person. However, students stranded without a ride to school have to attend class virtually, The Democrat & Chronicle reported.

Other districts are paying parents to transport their own kids to and from school. EastSide Charter School in Delaware is offering parents $US700 ($AU950) for every child they drive.

In Chicago, more than 70 public school bus drivers quit right before the school year began due to vaccination requirements, Insider’s Madison Hoff reported.

The school system responded to the sudden resignations by paying parents $US1,000 ($AU1,357) stipends to use however they want on transportation such as public transit, Uber, or Lyft for the first two weeks of school, CBS Chicago reported. After that, they’ll get $US500 ($AU678) per month.

“According to the bus companies, the rush of resignations was likely driven by the vaccination requirements,” CPS said in a statement. “As a result, the district went from being able to provide all eligible students a bus route, to being unable to accommodate transportation for approximately 2,100 students within a matter of days.”