Shaker Adds Incentives to Attract Bus Drivers

Increased pay and benefits are helping to alleviate shortage


Gracie Turner

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, school systems throughout the country have struggled to employ enough bus drivers to transport students. Shaker began this school year with half as many drivers as usual.

Changes in pay and benefits have helped the district attract bus drivers amid a national bus driver shortage that emerged during the pandemic.

According to, “The mission of the Transportation Department is to provide safe, professional and efficient transportation for students to and from school; and all extracurricular activities and school-related events.” 

The department faces an unprecedented challenge to live up to this statement because of the bus driver shortage. “In 2020, the District had 50 drivers. That number dropped to 35 during the past school year. Today, the District is down to approximately 25 drivers,” the website stated.

School systems nationwide are scrambling to find drivers. Chicago Public Schools had 400 bus driver spots open when school began this year, and they’re unlikely to be filled anytime soon, according to The Chicago Tribune. 

To help manage the changes forced by the shortage, the district is using a new program for grades K-8 called “Here Comes The Bus” to help communicate with families when bus routes are combined. The program also helps to inform families if it is necessary to change bus routes or drivers. 

The driver shortage affects Shaker athletics as well. Last April, members of the women’s lacrosse team drove themselves to a game in Wadsworth, which is more than 40 miles away from the high school. “Things were very fluid. So we didn’t know what was going on until the last second,” sophomore lacrosse player Abbey English said. Players arrived at the game at different times. “Our coaches got there about 45 minutes later, so we had to start warming up without coaches. It was not good,” she said. 

The district’s biggest challenge has been recruiting drivers. “We often lose prospective drivers to other jobs, such as retail or the Amazon warehouse,” said Scott Stephens, director of communications. 

The district has increased pay and health benefits for drivers to try and fill the empty positions. A job posting for full time bus drivers at states a salary range of $21 to $29.97 an hour. “The board approved a new three-year contract for bus drivers that increases pay by 2.5 percent, 2.25 percent and 2.5 percent over a three-year period. Most significantly, we are giving our drivers health care and other benefits for the first time,” Stephens said. 

Since this plan was approved the district has filled six new bus driver positions. “I anticipate that all vacancies will be filled before winter break,” Director of Transportation Erin Spevak wrote in an email message. 

Stephens emphasized how important bus drivers are to the district. “Their job is to bring our students to school safely, and return them home safely. It is hard to imagine a more important job,” he said.  

Spevak wrote that bus drivers are the glue that holds everything together.” They have to pay attention at all times. “Drivers do not have the luxury to send students out to the hall or to the principal’s office.” 

“School transportation is essential in today’s world,” Spevak wrote. “It is easy to forget how something as simple as a school bus impacts the lives of students, parents, teachers and the community members.”

Comment using your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail account