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News from 2022-2023

Posted: August 16, 2022

Why APS Has a Bus Driver Shortage and What We're Doing About It

Albuquerque Public Schools has more bus drivers than last year thanks to pay increases and other incentives but was still short about three dozen drivers at the start of the school.

The first few weeks of any school year are hectic, but a nationwide shortage of school bus drivers has made the situation more complex this year. As a result, some Albuquerque Public Schools buses are late picking up and dropping off students, some buses are crowded, some bus stops have moved, and some students are no longer eligible to ride the bus.  

APS is aware there’s a problem and continues to exhaust all available resources to find a solution so all eligible students can again depend on daily transportation to and from school.

A Shift in Public School Transportation 

To understand how we got here, we need to rewind to 2015, when the nation began seeing a larger than average turnover rate among public school bus drivers – as much as 40 percent.  

At the same time, many school bus contractors were getting out of a business they no longer saw as profitable. 

Up until then, APS relied entirely on contractors to run its buses. But when the state changed how it funded public school transportation, two of APS’s largest bus contractors closed their shops in Albuquerque, including Durham School Services, which covered nearly a third of all APS routes. 

Suddenly, APS was in the bus business, forced to take over routes abandoned by its contractors. 

The number of contractors in the years since has dwindled, from 16 in 2015 to only six today.

The scarcity of bus companies and the bus driver shortage exacerbated by the pandemic have left APS to deal with enormous challenges. 

Bus Driver Incentives 

Here are some of the actions the district has committed to over the past several years to attract and retain more drivers to ensure safe and dependable service for the 30,000 APS students who rely on daily bus service:

  • APS offers competitive pay with benefits. Hourly wages for qualified drivers start at $20 or more, depending on experience.
  • APS has Increased recruitment efforts with job fairs, billboard advertising, industry marketing, and more.
  • APS has taken steps to simplify the hiring process. Years ago, prospective drivers had to shell out up to $250 to pay for their commercial driver’s license, background check, and physical examination. The district now covers these costs. 
  • APS pays to prepare drivers to pass the required commercial driver’s license test and background and application fees. 

Unfortunately, all of those incentives haven’t generated enough new hires to guarantee full bus route coverage, never mind a driver pool to draw from when people get sick or quit. APS Transportation mechanics and administrative staff with required licenses have to fill in. 

Gratifying Work 

The irony is many bus drivers find their work gratifying. The split-shift day allows employees to work the morning hours, take a few hours for themselves before the afternoon drive, and wrap up the day with an entire evening ahead of them. The pay is now competitive, and it’s an ideal job for anyone who likes to be around school-age children and make a difference.

Interested in becoming a school bus driver? Apply Online
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