The National Guard is being deployed to pick up the slack.
School districts around the United States have been experiencing a severe shortage in able-bodied school bus drivers. When schools closed down at the height of the pandemic, many drivers were furloughed, with some opting instead to retire from the profession entirely. Now that students are returning to in-person learning, the overall driver force has been slashed, with many more still holding concerns over the delta variant, face masks, and vaccines.
Massachusetts in particular is running severely low on drivers. As such, Governor Charlie Baker made the decision to make up the difference by deploying the National Guard. In a press release issued earlier this week, Baker said that up to 250 members of the National Guard would be made available to drive 7D vans, also known as “school pupil transport vehicles.” At least 90 members of the guard have already undergone training for driving in Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell and Lynn.
“Once it became pretty clear that there were going to be some communities shorthanded — it wasn’t going to be a vehicle issue, it was going to be people with [commercial driver’s licenses] — we started talking to the Guard,” Baker explained.
Massachusetts schools are short on bus drivers. The governor is sending the National Guard to get kids to class. https://t.co/lhrnJd3Vzl
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 14, 2021
“There are a bunch of communities who have said they’re interested in this, and we’re glad to be able to help because it’s important.”
Other states and cities suffering bus driver shortages of their own have opted to employ alternative methods to coerce new drivers into the profession. The state of Montana, for instance, has begun offering a $4,000 pay bonus for any new drivers that join up.