Loudoun County Bus Driver Issue Continues

Ever since the start of the 2020-2021 school year, school districts across the country, including Loudoun County, have been experiencing a severe shortage of bus drivers. “The causes of our current driver shortage are a complex combination of many factors.  The U.S. nationally has faced a driver shortage for several years which in turn has translated to a shortage of school bus drivers, which has impacted LCPS directly,” says Director of Transportation, Scott Davies. At the end of August 2021, there were 86 vacancies for bus drivers and nearly 50 unassigned routes across the county, with office staff members and garage workers being expected to fill the gap. However, sometimes this is not enough, which results in more late buses and second loads, especially at the elementary and middle school levels. 

The amount of total bus drivers in the county began decreasing in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic and has been on a steady decline ever since. This is due to a couple of factors. One of these factors is the extended work day with uncompensated pay. “Most drivers are guaranteed six (6) hours of pay each day (3 hours in the AM and 3 hours in the PM), however they start their day at 6:30 am and end their day at 5:30 pm, an 11 hour timespan with a mid-day break, which creates a long working day for only six hours of pay,” explains Davies

Another cause of the shortage: the training process. Hopeful bus drivers must go through two weeks of classroom training, behind the wheel training, written DMV permit testing, DMV practical testing, not to mention background checks, fingerprinting, and interviewing. The pandemic has made the position less desirable since numerous students in an enclosed environment is not appealing to those who may be at an increased risk.

The LCPS Transportation Division is taking many steps to fix the driver shortage. “In July, a pay increase, approved by the School Board, took effect. In August, we implemented a $2,500 sign-on bonus for all new school bus drivers, in addition to increasing the referral bonus to $1,000 for each LCPS employee who refers a successful driver,” says Davies

As a result of the many routes which have been cut, schools across Loudoun are adjusting their start times next year. All seventeen high schools will now start at 9:30 AM and release at 4:18 PM. For Woodgrove, this means school starts and releases 20 minutes later. Thirty elementary schools and eleven middle schools are also changing their start and release times. 

This graph details the correlation between the decreasing number of bus drivers and the amount of routes in the county. (Scott Davies)