Bus Inefficiencies Rampant in BCPS

Esha Singhai, Editor

On October 26, 2021, school bus drivers in Baltimore County attended a protest at the school board, calling for an increase in wages. Since the beginning of the 2021-2022 year, the Baltimore County Public School (BCPS) system has seen a rapid increase in bus driver shortages, which has caused manifold issues for those who remain. 

In a recent press conference, BCPS Superintendent Darryl Williams revealed that Baltimore County currently employs 700 bus drivers, despite having 800 routes that need to be covered. With an excess of routes and a shortage of employees, many drivers reported having to work for longer hours in order to compensate for this imbalance. 

In interviews conducted with Dulaney High School bus drivers, many voiced having to pick up 2-3 new routes a week, with some picking up new routes every single day. This has caused drivers to be late to their stops and their buses to be overcrowded. A recent poll conducted with Dulaney High School students displays similar results. 

“For a while, my bus wouldn’t come at all or would come 20-30 minutes late,” said one student. 

This trend seems to be occurring across Baltimore County, with a Baltimore Sun Report stating that buses can get so crowded that students must sit 3-4 to a seat or resort to sitting on the floor.  

Though these problems are out of the drivers’ control, they must also deal with parental frustration and anger that is unfairly placed onto them. Oftentimes, parents cannot get through to the county which is why they will share their concerns with drivers. When both parents and drivers are frustrated at a lack of communication and change within the system, it becomes incredibly difficult for both parties to do their jobs. 

“We keep doing what we’re doing, and that’s all we can do,” said one bus driver. 

These issues are not the only thing bothering bus drivers. The average starting salary for BCPS drivers is only $19.45 an hour, which is significantly less than other commercial drivers license holders in Maryland who earn an average of $25 per hour.

However, in early November, Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski proposed a plan aimed at increasing the number of bus drivers and compensating current drivers. At face value, it would remove pre-employment barriers and provide monetary incentives to all drivers. Under this plan, BCPS would provide the following¹: 

  • $250 sign-on bonus
  • $250 employee referral incentive
  • $50 monthly attendance reward for on-time attendance every day
  • Retention bonus of up to $1,000
  • Differential pay of $2 per hour

School officials also stated that the estimated cost of this plan is likely to be more than $5.2 million, with additional funding coming from the American Rescue Plan. This plan has not yet been passed, but will be considered in the next few weeks. Nevertheless, though efforts are being taken on the county level to ensure fair compensation for bus drivers, it is extremely important that we do our part in respecting our bus drivers as well. 

¹ This information is taken from the Baltimore County Government page.