Salt Lake City School District’s Bus Driver Shortages


Barrett Carpenter

The national employee shortage has hit the Salt Lake City School District hard, and may impact how you or your child get to school. According to “HopSkipDrive,” a company which aids in safe student transport in states like California and Colorado, nearly 80% of surveyed school districts across the nation are experiencing a bus driver shortage, and the Salt Lake City School District (SLCSD) is no exception.

According to Ken Martinez, the Director of Transportation for the SLCSD, there are currently 5 Salt Lake District bus routes without assigned drivers, and that number may continue to grow. In fact, the number of bus drivers employed by SLCSD has steadily decreased over the past 3 decades, which Martinez accredits to the large presence of industrial farming, which pushed out family farmers who could “drive students to school in the morning, farm during the day, then take students home in the afternoon.” Jobs like bus driving provided farmers with steady income during the winter as well as with health insurance coverage, both of which are offered by modern corporate farming. COVID-19 has also played a role in the shortage, and the reintroduction of in-person school has made school buses a concern for drivers “whose jobs put them in very close contact with many students who are exempt from mask mandates.” To combat these concerns, the district has begun using “Driver Barriers,” which are plastic shields that enclose the driver cockpit. Additionally the district provides disposable masks, and face shields to all employees.

This shortage is not just limited to student populations who are exempt from masking requirements. Bus driver availability has also been affected by West High’s new start times. West High coach, Olosaa Solovi, works as a bus driver in the mornings, but is unable to drive his afternoon route because of coaching obligations. Martinez believes that the largest effect on the SLCSD High School bus system has been said later start times, saying that they “[have] made us run our routes in reverse and are causing many problems with unforeseen issues.”

The District recently unveiled a fleet of electric school buses. They are the only district in the state to have done so, and are hoping that this addition will attract new drivers:

“As these buses are used more and other drivers tell drivers how much they enjoy driving them, the masses will want to drive them,” says Martinez. He worries, however, that these electric buses may take time to gain traction. “ He credits “fear of the unknown” as the current issue surrounding the new buses.

So what does it take to be a bus driver for the SLCSD? “SLCSD can walk each individual through the licencing process step by step. These steps will vary depending on each potential driver’s experience,” Martinez says. For example,while a Commercial Driver’s License (Class-C Driver’s License, or CDL) is required to operate a school bus, Martinez stated that it is not a requirement to begin the application process: “An applicant with no experience or CDL will first be issued a manual to study. When they have studied they will take their written test at the DMV.” After passing the CDL test with the DMV, class studies and paid training begins. The District is currently offering contracts for all 77 bus routes, and each contract includes health insurance as well as leave benefits. If anyone is interested in becoming a school bus driver for the Salt Lake City School District, they are invited to complete the application on the School District website,, where you will be contacted to begin the training process.