School bus driver shortage updates

A First Student yellow bus with the red stop sign deployed

The City School District of Albany recognizes that inconsistent and late buses continue to be a challenge, and that this is a daily frustration for some families. We know this is affecting our students and families, and that this is not acceptable. 

Regrettably, much like the staffing shortages that continue to affect our organization and countless others locally and nationally, the dilemma with First Student is directly related to the chronic shortage of bus drivers. This is a regional, statewide and national problem.

The district currently has 83 bus routes each day, and 79 bus drivers if every driver is able to report to work every day. We recognize that circumstances in everyone’s life sometimes mean we all miss a day of work here and there. 

COVID-19 cases and quarantines are impacting First Student, just as they are our schools and broader community, and the pandemic will continue to present challenges for most organizations.

As a result, on a daily basis First Student does not have drivers to cover 8-15 of our current routes. This also is after we started the year by consolidating runs to eliminate eight routes due the driver shortage at that time. 

That means, effectively, we are down 16-23 routes on a daily basis from where our Transportation Department would like to be, simply because there are no drivers for those buses.

To respond to these unfortunate realities of the pandemic, First Student is rearranging routes most days to maximize the number of drivers available. This means that routes are doubled or even tripled on some days, leading to inconsistent arrival times in some cases as routes and drivers sometimes change daily. 

Some buses may continue to run 20-30 minutes behind schedule until the driver shortage eases. Please be assured that students are not being marked tardy at school when a late bus is the reason that they get there after the day has started. 

The driver staffing challenge also is leading to some buses that are more full than we would otherwise plan, even though COVID-19 guidance from federal, state and local health professionals allows school buses to operate at regular capacity this school year.

  • Please remind your student that they are required to wear a mask at all times while riding a bus to and from school. 
    • This applies to both First Student and CDTA buses.

We also typically try to assign as few students as possible to each bus to assist with behavior management. However, just as we have in our schools, we are experiencing an increase in behavioral challenges on our buses this school year. This also leads to delays, as drivers sometimes need to pull over to manage student behavior and safety. 

  • Please talk with your student about the importance of following the rules while they are riding a bus to and from school. We will follow our Student Code of Conduct with all behaviors on the bus just as we do at school.
    • For middle and high school students riding CDTA buses, the CDTA Code of Conduct also applies. Consequences for violating either set of expectations on First Student or CDTA buses could include a temporary or permanent loss of bus privileges for students.

Steps to address the driver shortage

First Student is actively working to recruit drivers as well as bus monitors. 

First Student currently has 19 drivers in the application and training process, and expects as many as eight of these individuals to be on the road by mid-November. 

If you or someone you know might be interested in driving a school bus and serving our school community, please consider the following incentives that First Student is offering:

  • First Student bus drivers earn well above the local industry standard
    • Drivers of large buses start at $21.64 an hour; drivers of small buses start at $19.49 an hour
    • An Oct. 21 Times Union article indicated that bus drivers at other area school districts earn $15 an hour
  • A $2,500 sign-on bonus for fully credentialed new drivers, and a $1,500 sign-on bonus and paid CDL training for new drivers who are not yet certified.
    • First Student also offers current drivers a $1,500 incentive for referring a new driver
  • A $500 sign-on bonus for monitors as well as a $500 referral bonus for current monitors
  • CDL permit classes on-site
    • Historically, candidates were required to hold a CDL license before applying for a position. 

If you or someone you know would like to find out more about job opportunities with First Student, please visit and search jobs in Albany.

The district has reached out to other local yellow bus providers for help, but they are experiencing the same driver shortages. We also are exploring potential options with CDTA. 

How you can help

Parents and guardians, if you have the means to drive your student to school, to pick them up in the afternoon or both, this would help reduce the total number of students requiring bus transportation. 

It also would assist with our management of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, as well as student behavior. 

The problems you are experiencing with yellow buses are a direct result of the ongoing presence of COVID-19. We want to assure you that our Transportation Department team, and our partners at First Student, will continue to do everything possible every day to respond to these needs and address them to the greatest extent possible. 

We appreciate your continued understanding and support as we all work through the challenges of the pandemic together.