Bus driver shortages are hitting rural school districts hard across the country. Reports suggest that the issue is so dire that drivers are either working extended hours or, in some cases, teachers, administrators and even mechanics are getting behind the wheel to help children get to school.
However, city buses are also lacking key drivers to meet the mass transit needs in some areas, too.
We’re seeing a trend where truckers are asking, “How much do bus drivers make?”
Some truckers are even making the switch to bus driving.Why?
Bus drivers maintain a regular route
Drivers receive a lot of days off
Jobs working for school districts are very secure
Pay is decent (not as high as some truck driver pay)
Drivers want to be home daily
Some drivers like to help their local communities
If you’re considering becoming a bus driver, it’s important to consider school bus driver pay before making the switch.
What’s the National Average for Bus Driver Pay?
School districts and cities dictate their bus driver pay, so you may find a significant difference in the pay from one bus driver and city to the next.
Data from Salary.com shows that:
The average bus driver earns $41,076 per year. Salaries can range from $35,000 to $45,951 per year. Those in the top 90% earn $50,390 per year.
The average school bus driver earns $35,609 per year. Salaries can range from $28,749 to $43,400 per year. Those in the top 90% earn $50,494 per year.
How Much Do Bus Drivers Make An Hour?
The average salaries listed above are based on reported salaries from drivers. Data is highly dependent on location and experience.
You know the average yearly school bus driver pay, but how much do drivers make per hour?
According to Indeed.com, bus drivers earn an average hourly wage of $17.49/hour. That equates to about $39,559 per year and $2,801 per month.
Shortages are Shifting the Bus Driver Industry
Now that there are shortages across the country, a significant shift in pay and perks is being made in many districts. For example, in Lexington, South Carolina, the school district recently:
Raised all bus driver salaries by 5%
Increased bus driver pay by $1
Bonuses of $1,000 are possibly going to full-time drivers
Bonuses of $500 are possibly going to part-time drivers
After years of many school districts failing to increase school bus driver pay, many drivers left their positions. Due to the shortage of drivers, there’s been a shift to higher pay and bonuses for drivers, which makes driving more attractive to those who qualify.
What Factors Affect the Salary for Bus Drivers?
Several factors affect a bus driver’s salary, including:
School bus drivers and transit drivers earn different salaries. Generally, transit and tour bus drivers earn more than school bus drivers.
Like with any other job, experience will have a direct impact on your salary. According to data from Indeed.com, drivers earn the following based on their years of experience:
$16.29/hour or $36,835/year for 1-2 years of experience
$20.54/hour or $46,463/year for 10+ years of experience
The more experience you have as a bus driver, the higher the pay. If you have experience driving a tractor trailer, that experience may work in your favor to help you secure a higher salary.
Of course, location will also impact your earnings. Areas with a higher cost of living generally offer higher pay, but that is not always the case.
Locations with the highest salaries for bus drivers include:
New York, NY: $21.10/hour
Chicago, IL: $20.97/hour
Los Angeles, CA: $19.29/hour
Milwaukee, WI: $18.72/hour
Denver, CO: $18.64/hour
Philadelphia, PA: $17.91/hour
Atlanta, GA: $16.03/hour
Las Vegas, NV: $15.88/hour
States with the lowest bus driver salaries include Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
States with the highest overall salaries are Washington, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Vermont.
How Easy Is It for Truckers to Transition to Bus Drivers?
If you’re a truck driver who wants to make the switch to being a bus driver, it’s important to know what you’re up against. Right now, the requirements for many positions are:
CDL license – which you already have as a trucker
School bus endorsement (S endorsement)
Passenger endorsement (P endorsement)
Drivers will also be required to pass a criminal background check to ensure that children are in good hands when going to and returning from school.
Discussions with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have also started to pick up, as more school districts are suggesting a school bus-only CDL option. The CDL option would make it easier for truckers with experience to get behind the wheel of a school bus.
The shortage of bus drivers is a delicate one, and it’s leading to some districts taking drastic measures to get students to school.
Prime examples of this can be seen in Massachusetts, which has such a shortage of bus drivers that the National Guard has been called in to bring students to school. In addition, Philadelphia is willing to pay parents up to $3,000 if they agree to drive their own kids to school the entire year.
One of the main reasons for the shortage, and it’s a complex situation, is that working conditions and disputes over wages have led many drivers to find other positions. Now, school districts are willing to allocate more resources to hire bus drivers.
If you’ve ever considered becoming a bus driver, the national shortage has made it the perfect opportunity to make the transition.