Take a morning drive through any neighborhood in Atlanta and you will see a number of school-aged children waiting on various street corners for their school buses to arrive. This year, students throughout metro Atlanta might be waiting a bit longer than usual due to a shortage of bus drivers.
The 2022-23 Fulton County school year has opened with a need for more bus drivers. The county is short a quarter of the bus drivers necessary for a full fleet, according to Fulton County Schools.
Fulton County has more than 69,000 students travel to and from 108 schools every day, including 20 high schools. Parents were recently sent letters requesting patience for upcoming delays in bus service.
One of the largest school districts in the state, Fulton County Schools is short of upwards of 200 school bus drivers, according to reports. For applicants that are licensed drivers and can pass a background check, there are incentives that include sign-on bonuses. Experienced bus drivers may be eligible to receive a retention bonus.
Paid training will be provided to all new hires.
The average work day for a bus driver is six hours, with the opportunity to earn more money driving county buses after normal school transportation hours, during weekends and summers.
Fulton County has raised bus driver starting pay to $20.40 per hour for applicants without CDLs. The average salary for bus drivers in Georgia is $18.73, according to data provided by Indeed.
There is also a need for transportation assistants, which does not include driving the bus. The salary for transportation assistants in Fulton County is $16 per hour.
On Tuesday, a Cobb County parent reported that her 5-year-old son was left at school for nearly three hours following morning pickup, according to a Fox 5 Atlanta report. The mother, Sonequa Barnes, blames the bus driver for not checking for her son despite the route including much older kids.
The retainment of veteran bus drivers is also very important. The familiarity with not only the bus routes, but the students that regularly ride the buses, is crucial to preventing such incidents.
With more than 20 other public school systems in metro Atlanta, the competition for school bus drivers has been fierce. Drivers are also considering working for Amazon because of the hours, schedules, and in some cases, the pay, experts say. Amazon drivers in Georgia make roughly just over $30,000 per year, according to data provided by Ziprecruiter.com.
Though that payscale works out to about $14.65 per hour or just under $600 per week, it provides a schedule that most often does not include early mornings. The lack of children or their parents being involved can also be seen as an incentive for drivers.