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Drivers in demand: SJUSD struggles with bus driver shortage

By Andrew Duval Dec. 15, 2022

Daniel Choi Art

Freshman Phoenix Lugo takes the school bus to school every day, waking up at 6:30 a.m. each morning to catch the ride. The drive to school—normally about 15 minutes—now takes over half an hour, much longer than it should because of the bus driver shortage that has crippled San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) and many other districts in the Bay Area.

“I have been taking the bus since middle school. It has become tiring for me due to the constant delays and uncomfortable seating. I would recommend the district to decrease the number of stops and buy more comfortable seats to make it more enticing for students to ride the bus,” Lugo said.

Currently, 86% of districts in Santa Clara County have open bus driver positions, while 79% report lower applicant numbers compared to last year. Although the service is still running, the drivers are stretched thin. Their routes are constantly changed to fill in for missing bus drivers with little warning, as stated by San Jose Spotlight. Due to the lack of drivers, current SJUSD bus drivers must take on a heavy workload to fill in for the missing drivers which has led to the elimination of several routes. The shortage has also caused some routes to be extended, forcing students to wake up earlier, be late for school or turn to alternative modes of transportation.

“A friend of mine from another district has had to wait for 20 to 30 minutes for the bus to arrive. It would result in him often arriving at school late and having a hard time learning,” Freshman Nathan Lee said.

In 2021, SJUSD cut bus service to 17 elementary schools due to the shortage. As reported by San Jose Spotlight, special needs students could be disproportionately affected by these cuts, as many of them prefer to see the same driver every morning as they head to school. The changes may also have a greater impact on students from low-income families, who may not have the luxury to afford alternative methods of transportation.

A variety of factors have influenced the driver shortage. During the pandemic, the transition to distance learning meant that there was next to no demand for buses, prompting many schools to decrease funding for transportation services. According to KTVU, a Bay Area news outlet, drivers have also been siphoned off by other employers. Many large tech companies in the Bay Area utilize bus services as well, but offer far more competitive pay for drivers, drawing bus drivers away from school. Moreover, as the cost of living continues to climb, many drivers have moved out of San Jose—a problem bus services in the Bay Area will have to contend with until pay rises or the cost of living decreases.

Daniel Choi

SJUSD is working to combat the shortage by raising the hourly starting pay of bus drivers to between $18 and $24 and providing medical benefits to further appeal to them. To curb the effects of the driver shortage, SJUSD has provided VTA passes to students whose routes have been cut.

As the cost of gas continues to rise, it is important that students have a reliable form of transportation to school. With the bus driver shortage continuing to impact Silicon Valley, districts are hopeful that an effective solution—whether it be higher wages, district-provided housing or contracting bus services—will be found.


About the Contributors

Andrew Duval

staff writer

Andrew Duval is a Freshman writer for The Charger Account. He spends his spare time surfing Wikipedia, reading, and editing videos.

Daniel Choi


Daniel Choi is a sophomore at Leland High School and an artist for The Charger Account. During his free time, he enjoys to watch shows, do art, and play video games.

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