Hiring Drought: bus driver shortages in Western Mass. | Local


SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – Parents have expressed concerns about their children being on the bus for an extended amount of time.  

Western Mass News spoke with Springfield resident Thomas Johnson about how long it takes for his daughter to come home from school.  

“She’s like sweating.  I’m like ‘What’s going on?’  She said the bus takes two hours, passes our street, goes through town, comes back,” said Johnson.  

Before the pandemic, the bus ride home from East Longmeadow to Springfield would take at most one hour, according to Johnson. Normally, there are more buses to assist with the route.  

“Probably two or three buses were doing that route.  Now, it’s one, definitely a cutback,” said Johnson.  

The cutback has impacted how long Johnson’s daughter is on the bus. 

Sasha Jimenez of Holyoke has shifted her work schedule to accommodate her daughter’s bus schedule as the bus arrives at a different time each day.  

“Definitely just like irregularities in the schedule by like 30-minute margins,” said Jimenez.  

Jimenez’s daughter attends Hampden Charter School of Science West. She has had to block out an hour of time to ensure she can pick up her daughter. 

“So like between three and four o’clock, I don’t have anything scheduled, so like I’m here at like 3:15 ’cause the bus could be 30 minutes early…Just trying to gauge what time,” Jimenez explained.  

Western Mass News reached out to and is still waiting for a response from both school districts as well as the bus companies.  

Holyoke Public Schools have been facing bus driver shortages since September. 

“At one point, they said we can’t do this in a timely fashion. We’re going to need some more time until we can hire some drivers,” said Holyoke Public Schools Superintendent and Receiver Anthony Soto.  

Soto explained to Western Mass News that the district needed extra help from the National Guard due to a bus driver shortage.  Six guard members are driving Vanpool buses for six different routes. 

The CEO of Vanpool told Western Mass News that the National Guard will not be needed until the end of the year to assist Holyoke. 

“This is a short-term remedy.  We believe between October 24 up to maybe November 5, the National Guard will be assisting transporting those kids,” explained John McCarthy, CEO of NRT Bus, a partner of Vanpool.  

The Vanpool company needed 250 National Guard members to support them across the Bay State.  The reason they were able to get many civilian drivers quickly is due to the federal unemployment benefits that ended.  

“After September 6, after the extended benefits stop, we saw an uptick in people replying to these ads,” said McCarthy.  

McCarthy told Western Mass News they were able to test 100 new drivers the first Saturday in October. He explained that will relieve the stress off the National Guard, with tests that could be taken in English and Spanish. 

After the federal unemployment ended, Vanpool and NRT received 498 driver applications since the beginning of September and have hired 170 of those candidates.  

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